Make Liverpool’s Air-Quality Great Again – Sensing our city

  • Supervisors: Jonny Higham, University of Liverpool
    Andy Morse, University of Liverpool

  • External Supervisors:

  • Contact:

    Jonny Higham, University of Liverpool,

  • CASE Partner:

Application deadline: 10 January 2020


Our cities are built up from pollution creating homes and businesses, surrounding by pollution creating industry and connected by a complex maze of roads and highways creating and transporting even more pollution. According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the cost from the impacts of air pollution in the UK can be estimated to be between £9-19 billion every year; comparable to the economic cost of obesity (over £10 billion). Without a detailed understanding of spatio-temporal pollution mixing and dispersion processes within our towns and cities, it is almost impossible for our urban planners to design and redevelop our cities for the future [1].

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Liverpool is one of the UK’s forty-seven cities which are well above recommended pollution limits. Currently the whole of the city of Liverpool’s real-time monitoring is undertaken at one station nearly ten miles from the city centre (, any other points are measured manually on monthly intervals. This means there are no daily or weekly datasets available to help planners, designers and architects to design buildings, or for DEFRA to inform their pollution models of the city. Over the past few years the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the SigFox network [2], coupled with the development of low-cost, low-power microprocessors means it is now possible to create large networks of connected devices without need for external power supplies. This creates a huge opportunity to create a network of environmental sensors generating invaluable datasets. 

Project Summary:

The PhD project will align with some of the current work of the Liverpool Environmental Flows Group (LEFG) ( The LEFG currently is undergoing an expansion of their network to incorporate 100+ real-time sensors around the city of Liverpool by Jan 2020. Each of the current sensors measures temperature, humidity, pressure, dust concentration, CO2 concentration, and NOX. The PhD candidate initially will join the LEFG to developing sensors, adding additional functionalities and optimising their design. This will mean the candidate will need be hands on in building more sensors and distributing them around the cities, working closely with our industrial supporter SigFox. The candidate will investigate themes such as:

  • How do different parts of the city communicate with one another, i.e. how pollution fluxes are passed around the city.
  • How local socioeconomics affect the amount of pollution in different areas of the city,
  • Does Liverpool have its own local climatic conditions and how does this affect the spread of pollution.

During the project the candidate will work in a multidisciplinary team with members of staff from environmental sciences, engineering and mathematics. The candidate will receive all required training in electronics and the use of any equipment. The candidate will be trained in time series and spatial analysis techniques, air pollution meteorology, and will develop an interactive website for outputs linked to a database. The main quality required of the candidate is that they are inquisitive and proactive.


[1] Mayer, H. (1999). Air pollution in cities. Atmospheric environment33(24-25), 4029-4037.

[2] Vejlgaard, B., Lauridsen, M., Nguyen, H., Kovács, I. Z., Mogensen, P., & Sorensen, M. (2017, June). Coverage and capacity analysis of sigfox, lora, gprs, and nb-iot. In 2017 IEEE 85th vehicular technology conference (VTC Spring) (pp. 1-5). IEEE.

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