Zhang and graduate student Xing Wang traveled to Beijing in the summer of 2007 to take initial measurements of airborne particles in various spots around the city, from heavily trafficked highways to residential communities -- even inside restaurants. They used real-time analytical instruments to capture the changes in particle size and concentrations in a matter of seconds.
Zhang plans to repeat tests in Beijing during the Olympics, and then again a year later. The study is supported by Cornell's Jeffrey Sean Lehman Fund for Scholarly Exchange with China and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Zhang also is collaborating in an air quality project in Syracuse, N.Y., helping to design a controlled ventilation system for a building to be placed at the intersection of Interstates 81 and 690 -- a major hub in downtown Syracuse. The building will house the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems, which is funding the study.
The ventilation's control system would turn up or down, depending on the quality of air around the building at any given time. To design it, Zhang is using cameras to measure traffic levels. He is developing computer algorithms to simulate how the plume of pollution would disperse into the building.
"I think it's novel in terms of linking the building to the surrounding environment," he said. "When people think about a building, they only think about the building alone. They never think, 'The building has to be somewhere.'"
Zhang is excited at the opportunity to work on such a project, because he has long studied traffic dispersion and how it relates to the air people breathe.
"The cities are my laboratory," he said.
He also is working on air quality studies in Rochester and in South Bronx, N.Y., where high rates of asthma in schoolchildren are believed to
|Contact: Blaine Friedlander|
Cornell University Communications