TOPIC IX "aeroHEALTH & Data analysis"

Helmholtz International Laboratory aeroHEALTH - Impact of Atmospheric Aerosols on Human Health

The German-Israeli Helmholtz International Laboratory aeroHEALTH ( strives to understand the biological and health effects of atmospheric aerosols mechanistically, combining information on primary emissions as well as secondary and ambient aerosols. Atmospheric processing (“aging”) under atmospheric relevant conditions of biogenic and anthropogenic emissions are simulated on short and long-term scales to connect laboratory observations with the observed health impacts from field experiments.

aeroHEALTH is based on the "Virtual Helmholtz Institute of Complex Molecular Systems in Environmental Health" (HICE), which investigates the chemical and biological effects of primary combustion emissions. Under real atmospheric conditions, these aerosol emissions are rapidly converted by complex multiphase chemistry, which alters the physicochemical properties. The toxicological potential remains unclear. The research on this highly complex environmental issue benefits from the expertise and contributions of various disciplines, including analytical chemistry, physics, biochemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, statistics and computer science. The aeroHEALTH consortium consists of leading groups of two Helmholtz institutes in Germany and the Weizmann Institute for Science in Israel with associated international partners from the academic and commercial sector, combining complementary expertise and cutting-edge technology. AeroHEALTH uses the Helmholtz network (Comprehensive Molecular Analytics (CMA) and Institutte of Computational Biology (ICB) at Helmholtz Centre Munich and Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ)) and strengthens its strategic partnership with the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS).

Scientists involved: Hendryk Czech, Patrick Martens in collaboration with all TOPICs


Passig et al.: Resonance-enhanced detection of metals in aerosols using single-particle mass spectrometry. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 2020, 20, 7139-7152.

Li et al.: Formation of Secondary Brown Carbon in Biomass Burning Aerosol Proxies through NO3 Radical Reactions. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54 (3), 1395–1405.

Pardo et al.: Toxicity of Water- and Organic-Soluble Wood Tar Fractions from Biomass Burning in Lung Epithelial Cells. Chem. Res. Toxicol. 2021,



IMPAERO - An interdisciplinary study on the impact of aerosolized particulate matter from aged wildfire plumes on environment and human health

Emissions from wildfires (WF) are major contributors to the global budget of ambient particulate matter (PM) affecting air quality, absorbing and scattering incoming radiation, forming haze and clouds. Due to climate change (CC), WF in many regions become a serious problem. Together with thawing permafrost, the increased incidence of WF, in particular also in Siberia, is becoming a self-reinforcement component of CC. Furthermore, several adverse health effects of WF emissions are discussed, including induction of diseases via inflammatory and gene-toxic pathways. By using the world largest aerosol aging chamber (LAC) in Tomsk (Russia), the expertise to simulate WF, and the aging of the emitted aerosols, it will be possible to collect sufficient mass of fresh and aged PM to study the biological effects of fine particles which also can reveal the physicochemical parameters responsible for the adverse effects. This joint DFG-RFBR-funded project is conducted in collaboration with Moscow State University (Russia), TU Munich and Institute of Atmospheric Optics (Tomsk, Russia) and the Institute of Chemical Kinetics (Novosibirsk, Russia).

Scientists involved: Hendryk Czech in collaboration with TOPIC I and TOPIC VIII

Popovicheva & Kozlov: Impact of combustion phase on scattering and spectral absorption of Siberian biomass burning: studies in Large Aerosol Chamber. Proceedings of SPIE - 26th International Symposium on Atmospheric and Ocean Optics, p 252.


Within the framework of the HICE project ( emissions of typical anthropogenic combustion sources are investigated. A wide range of technical equipment at the University of Eastern Finland and at the University of Rostock: boilers, stoves, automotive engines and marine diesel engines are investigated. Emission aerosols are characterized with respect to chemical and physical properties. Special attention is paid to the characterization of toxic aerosol components in the gas and particle phase of fresh and artificially aged emission aerosols. The deposition of size segregated emission particles from the different sources and aged aerosols in the human lung is investigated applying the HPLDB Model developed in TOPIC III.

Scientists involved: Hendryk Czech, Patrick Martens in collaboration with all TOPICs

Streibel et al.: Aerosol emissions of a ship diesel engine operated with diesel fuel or heavy fuel oil. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 2017, 24 (12), 10976–10991.

Miersch et al.: Impact of photochemical ageing on Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) and oxygenated PAH (Oxy-PAH/OH-PAH) in logwood stove emissions. Sci. Tot. Environ. 2019, 686, 382–392.

Ihantola et al.: Influence of wood species on toxicity of log-wood stove combustion aerosols: a parallel animal and air-liquid interface cell exposure study on spruce and pine smoke. Part. Fibre Toxicol. 2020, 17 (1), 27–52.

PPK - Prozessanalyse und -steuerung der industriellen Röstung von Lebens- und Genussmitteln mittels Photoionisationsmassenspektrometrie am Beispiel von Kaffee (PPK)

The central aspect of the PPK joint research project is to develop a new methodology to observe and manipulate the coffee roast process for getting a coffee with specific enhanced attributes. Within this project, a new mass spectrometric process analyser will be developed and tested on small, medium and industrial size coffee roaster of the company PROBAT GmbH. The measured molecular signals will be used to predict process and product properties in real-time to control the roasting process.

Scientists involved: Hendryk Czech in collaboration with TOPIC X

Heide et al.: Toward Smart Online Coffee Roasting Process Control: Feasibility of Real-Time Prediction of Coffee Roast Degree and Brew Antioxidant Capacity by Single-Photon Ionization Mass Spectrometric Monitoring of Roast Gases. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2020, 68 (17), 4752–4759.

Czech et al.: Smart Online Coffee Roasting Process Control: Modelling Coffee Roast Degree and Brew Antioxidant Capacity for Real-Time Prediction by Resonance-Enhanced Multi-Photon Ionization Mass Spectrometric (REMPI-TOFMS) Monitoring of Roast Gases. Foods 2020, 9 (5), 627–650.

fastGC - Development of hyper-fast gas chromatography for online photoionisation mass spectrometry

Components of organic aerosol are known to have complex impacts on human health and climate. The investigation of dynamic changes in combustion processes, such as in logwood combustion or car-driving at different speeds, requires measurement techniques of appropriate time resolution to follow qualitative and quantitative changes in complex organic emissions. Single-photon (SPI) and resonance-enhance multi-photon ionisation (REMPI) as soft ionisation techniques combined with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOFMS) fulfil the requirements. However, solely based on molecular mass no identifications of compounds can be carried out. The hyphenation of fast gas chromatography with a novel Peltier-modulator for sampling to SPI/REMPI-TOFMS can overcome this issue and separate isobars while compounds of equal retention time but different mass are separated through different peaks in the mass spectra. Hence, single volatile to semi-volatile compounds can be analysed with moderate time resolution during dynamic combustion processes. The focus here will be on alkylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and phenolic species, which both can be analysed by SPI- and REMPI-TOFMS with low limits of detection. Alkylated PAHs, which are mainly emitted by combustion processes using fossil fuels, have recently moved towards the centre stage of PAH research because it has been shown that they can cover significantly different toxicological properties than their unsubstituted basic structures. Phenolic species are known to be emitted by mainly biomass combustion and are long suspected to mitigate toxicological effects of other compounds of the combustion aerosol. Among the toxicological assessment of emission, the data can be valuable to predict possible conversion processes in ambient air, e.g. ozone formation potential or the formation of secondary organic aerosol. Finally, the Fast-GC-SPI/REMPI setup can be further utilised in an additional hyphenation to a thermal-optical carbon analyser to investigated particle-bound organic species and cover the full volatility range of organic aerosol emission.

Scientists involved: Kevin Schnepel, Christian Gehm, Hendryk Czech

Gehm et al.: Hyper-fast gas chromatography and single-photon ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry with integrated electrical modulator-based sampling for headspace and online VOC analyses. Analyst 2021, 146 (10), 3137–3149.

CHARCOAL - Chemical Composition and Origin of Atmospheric Brown Carbon Aerosol

CHARCOAL aims to bridge optical and thermal-optical carbon analysis (TOCA) by the addition of multi-wavelength transmittance measurements to TOCA. Furthermore, we seek to investigate the association of spectral particle properties, in particular brown carbon species, with their molecular composition using the hyphenation of TOCA to photoionisation mass spectrometry (PIMS) for several combustions, aged and ambient aerosols as well as model compounds. This joint DFG-NSF-funded project is conducted in collaboration with the Desert Research Institute (Reno, NV, USA) and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (USA).

Scientists involved: Patrick Martens, Martin Bauer, Hendry Czech in collaboration with TOPIC VI

Diab et al.: Hyphenation of a EC / OC thermal–optical carbon analyzer to photo-ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry: An off-line aerosol mass spectrometric approach for characterization of primary and secondary particulate matter. Atmos. Meas. Techn. 2015, 8 (8), 3337–3353.

Chen et al.: Multi-wavelength optical measurement to enhance thermal/optical analysis for carbonaceous aerosol. Atmos. Meas. Techn. 2015, 8 (1), 451–461.

Corbin et al.: Infrared-absorbing carbonaceous tar can dominate light absorption by marine-engine exhaust. npj Clim. Atmos. Sci. 2019, 2 (1), 3985–3994.

SAARUS - Optimisation of scrubber exhaust gas after-treatment technology for reduction of harmful emissions from ship traffic

The aim of the project is to reduce ship-based emissions through optimized and extended exhaust gas cleaning to protect the atmospheric and maritime environment. The focus is on the emission of fine particles smaller than 2.5 µm (PM2.5). Furthermore, the pollution by pollutants due to incomplete fuel combustion will be investigated. A change in the emission composition can be expected when the new IMO regulations (sulphur content in fuel <  0.5 % or use of an exhaust gas cleaning system) come into force. When using an exhaust gas cleaning system (gas scrubbing), the extremely small particles that are hardly reduced by it are particularly problematic. In addition to the aerosols, the washing water is also subject to only minor regulation in this respect, so that pollutant-laden particles can enter the marine environment. Using an exhaust gas scrubber with downstream particle filter and washing water treatment, additional highly sensitive process and emission measurement technology and simulations, we aim to optimise the individual process steps within a project period of 3 years, which is reflected in an overall reduction in emissions as follows:

  • A highly efficient separation of 90% of both the total particle mass and the particle fraction 2.5 - 0.1 µm
  • Reduction of the number of microparticles (1.0-01 µm) by 90%
  • Compliance with environmental quality standards in the field of water policy (2008/105/EC)
  • Turbidity value of the washing water <  25 NTU

Scientists involved: Martin Bauer, Hendryk Czech in collaboration with all TOPICs

Käfer et al.: Detailed Chemical Characterization of Bunker Fuels by High-Resolution Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Hyphenated to GC × GC and Thermal Analysis. Energy Fuels 2019, 33 (11), 10745–10755.

Vietnam biomass burning - Application of Comprehensive Time of Flight gas chromatography for chemical characterization of environmentally and health -dangerous emissions in urban and biomass burning regions in Vietnam

Southeast Asia is well-known for emission-intense and recurring wildfires and after-harvest crop residue burning during the pre-monsoon season from February to April. This project seeks to monitor biomass burning (BB) plumes arriving at remote Pha Din meteorological station (Northwest Vietnam), outline its carbonaceous particulate matter (PM) constituents based on a molecular marker approach and discuss possible BB sources to adds valuable information on chemical PM composition for a region with scarce data availability. Furthermore, laboratory-burning of rice and wheat straw and smog chamber-based ageing of the combustion emissions is performed to investigate their photochemistry and secondary organic aerosol formation potential under different NOx regimes.

Scientists involved: Dac-Loc Nguyen, Hendryk Czech in collaboration with TOPIC V

Nguyen et al.: Carbonaceous aerosol composition in air masses influenced by large-scale biomass burning: a case study in northwestern Vietnam. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 2021, 21, 8293–8312.