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Constraining CO2 emission of cities with sensor networks

Project Description

Project reference: CSE Physics Boesch 2020

Reducing carbon emissions to prevent damaging climate change is one of the grand challenges of our time. Although most countries have now committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (thanks to the Paris Agreement), we currently have no reliable means of observing carbon emissions on the appropriate space and time scales required to provide a better understanding of emission sources to underpin mitigation policies (‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’).

A main focus will have to be on urban areas which cover only a small fraction of the land but are responsible for about 70% of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. Historically carbon cycle studies have focused on ‘natural’ ecosystems, but since our understanding of carbon budget of cities is poor, urban carbon is quickly becoming a new frontier in carbon cycle science with the emergence of megacity carbon projects e.g. in LA and Paris. Understanding carbon at city scale can also inform local policy decisions on carbon mitigation and ensure that cities setting ambitious local goals are directing their efforts effectively.

Recent development in sensor technology provides now an opportunity for developing novel sensor networks using flexible and ‘low-cost’ CO2 sensors that can be deployed in urban environments to provide frequent measurements across a city in real-time. Such detailed data will allow us to gain new scientific insights into human-generated emissions from cities and CO2 uptake by the biosphere, which is important for ‘green’ cities such as London. There will also be opportunities for exploring synergistic approaches with upcoming satellites that target cities (but on larger spatial scales) and with existing air quality networks (NO2 and CO2 are co-emitted during fossil fuel burning).

This studentship will combine novel technology for low-cost sensors that will facilitate unique urban sensor networks and high profile science with high public interest, relevance to policy makers and a clear potential for commercial applications.
The studentship is supported by the partner EarthSense Ltd., a Leicester-based company who specialises in air quality sensors and pollution modelling and by EMPA, the Swiss Federal Laboratory for Material Science and Technology, who have established a pioneering CO2 network in Switzerland and who will host the student for an internship.

Entry requirements:

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.
The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.
For full application information and the link to the online application please go to:

Project / Funding Enquiries:
Application enquiries to
Closing date for applications 21st November 2019

Funding Notes

This project is eligible for a fully funded 3.5 year College of Science and Engineering studentship which includes:
• A full UK/EU fee waiver for 3.5 years - International applicants will need to provide evidence they can fund the difference between the UK/EU fee and International fee
• An annual tax free stipend of £15,009 (2019/20)
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)


1. Duren, R.M and C.E.Miller (2012), Measuring the Carbon Emissions of Megacities, Nature Climate Change 2, 560–562, doi:10.1038/nclimate1629

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