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Aerosol Physics Laboratory wins the Societal Impact Award

Published on 7.9.2021
Tampere University
Antti Lönnqvist ja Jorma Keskinen
Jorma Keskinen, professor of physics and head of the Aerosol Physics Laboratory (right) received the Societal Impact Award from Dean Antti Lönnqvist who chairs the Societal Interaction Council of Tampere University. _ Photo: Jonne Renvall
The Aerosol Physics Laboratory has received the Societal Impact Award given out by Tampere University.

The Aerosol Physics Laboratory undertakes research that meets international standards of excellence and helps to improve the health and well-being of people and address climate change, as stated in the grounds for granting the award.

The Laboratory maintains close collaborations not only with cities but also with industry and business in Finland and beyond.  

The Laboratory generates new knowledge that supports decision-making in society and is made openly available to the public. The Laboratory’s research findings have been widely covered in different media.  

The Aerosol Physics Laboratory, placed in the Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences at Tampere University, employs approximately 30 people, five of whom are professors at different stages of the tenure track.

Preventing climate change is a major goal

“We are delighted to receive the award as it recognises our commitment to carry out research that benefits society,” says Jorma Keskinen, professor of physics and head of the Aerosol Physics Laboratory.

The research conducted by the Laboratory has a strong societal – and a global – dimension because it seeks to prevent climate change and improve air quality.  

Simply out, aerosols, or small particles in the atmosphere, have a cooling effect on the climate and therefore a decrease in the amounts of atmospheric aerosols exacerbates warming.

“For example, limiting the sulphur content of marine fuels improves air quality, but the resulting drop in particulate emissions and increase in black carbon emissions can be problematic from a climate perspective,” Keskinen says.  

Aerosols are also capable of transmitting infectious diseases. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Aerosol Physics Laboratory and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland developed a robot that demonstrates the dispersion of respiratory droplets during coughing which must be considered, for example, when designing technical building solutions and ventilation systems.

The Aerosol Physics Laboratory is a member of the Atmosphere and Climate Competence Center (ACCC), which is funded under the Academy of Finland’s Flagship Programme. Professor Miikka Dal Maso oversees the Laboratory's work at ACCC.

Close collaboration with partners

The Aerosol Physics Laboratory publishes its research findings in the most high-impact publication channels as possible. Occasionally, all it takes is a lunch meeting to open up new possibilities for putting research into practice.

Keskinen tells about once having lunch with an EU official who was interested in research on nanoparticle emissions: “If you tell us what particles to regulate, we’ll regulate them.”  

The Aerosol Physics Laboratory maintains close ties with research partners. For example, Associate Professor (tenure track) of Physics Topi Rönkkö has long collaborated with HSY, which provides municipal water supply and waste management services in the Helsinki metropolitan area, and the Finnish Environment Institute.

“Topi’s BC Footprint project regularly hosts hour-long seminars that are attended by representatives of companies, universities and research institutions. The seminars provide a forum for lively debate and discussion,” Keskinen notes.

“Our publications often involve companies, too. There is a large number of companies that keep up to date with the latest research and have long since adopted sustainable business strategies,” Keskinen says.

Collaboration within the Laboratory and across the University

The Aerosol Physics Laboratory has a shared research infrastructure, and the Laboratory fosters close collaboration between its research groups.

This principle of collaboration holds true across the University – a multidisciplinary approach increases the impact of research.   

The Laboratory participates in collaborative undertakings that cut across organisational boundaries at Tampere University, such as the University Platform for Circular Economy and the TAU Research Platform for Climate Neutral Energy and Society.

All the University’s activities have an impact on society

The Societal Impact Award, established in 2019, was presented to Professor of Gerontology Marja Jylhä in 2020 and to the Dwellers in Agile Cities consortium in 2019.

 “In everything we do, Tampere University has a commitment to deliver impact for society,” says Dean Antti Lönnqvist who chairs the Societal Interaction Council of Tampere University.

“The activities of the Aerosol Physics Laboratory demonstrate that researchers and research groups can maintain a broad range of interactions and collaborations with society.”

“The impact that the University delivers for society is made up of multiple streams, so it can be difficult to gain an overall picture of our impact,” Lönnqvist says. “The Societal Impact Award highlights the valuable work that is carried out in different fields across the University.”