Press relase: pdfPress-Summary-Swiss-Aerosol-Award-2021.pdf133.8 kB

Fine dust exacerbates colds

Exposure to particulate matter alters the immune response of nasal epithelial cells in a way that makes it easier for cold viruses to multiply. This leads to a stronger inflammatory response, which is thought to be associated with more symptoms. This was shown by PD Dr. Loretta Müller and PD Dr. Jakob Usemann in their work - which was awarded the Swiss Aerosol Award 2021. 

It has been known for some time that particulate matter and other air pollutants can influence the immune response and the reproduction of influenza viruses. However, it has not yet been investigated whether air pollution alters infection with the so-called rhinoviruses. Rhinoviruses are very frequent viruses and mainly cause the common cold. In children, however, rhinoviruses can also cause severe respiratory symptoms. In addition, rhinovirus infection may predispose for later asthma development. 

In their award-winning work on the influence of diesel particles on the susceptibility of nasal epithelial cells to rhinovirus infection, PD Dr. Loretta Müller, group leader in the Pediatric Pneumology and Allergology at the University Children’s Hospital, Inselspital Bern and the Department of BioMedical Research (DBMR) at the University of Bern, and PD Dr. Jakob Usemann, consultant at the University Children’s Hospital Zürich and research associate at the Children's Hospital of Basel (UKBB), were able to show that prior exposure to diesel particles increases the amount of rhinovirus in nasal epithelial cells. This occurs via the downregulation of viral defense receptors and an upregulation of inflammatory messenger substances. The study, which included nasal epithelial cells from 49 children aged 0-7 years and 12 adults, also showed that the effects were independent of the participant’s age.

The Swiss Aerosol Award will be/was presented on 02 November 2021 at the 16th meeting of the Swiss Aerosol Group (SAG). The prize is endowed with CHF 5 000. 


  • Otto Brändli, Swiss Lung Foundation, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 079 688 53 37
  • PD Dr. Loretta Müller, Pediatric Pneumology and Allergology, University Children’s Hospital, Inselspital Bern and Department of BioMedical Research (DBMR), University of Bern, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 079 605 32 22
  • PD Dr. med Jakob Usemann, PhD, University Children's Hospital Basel (UKBB), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 076 441 95 18

Original title: Diesel exposure increases susceptibility of primary human nasal epithelial cells to rhinovirus infection



Press relase:      Download: pdfswissaerosolaward_2020_englisch.pdf630.24 kB   |  pdfZusammenfassung.Sauvageat_Zeder.pdf144.79 kB

The 10th Swiss Aerosol Award has been presented at the annual conference of the Swiss Aerosol Society November 3, 2020 to Dr. Lukas Durdina (EMPA and ZHAW) for his publications on particulate emissions of a business jet and to Eric Sauvageat (Uni Berne) and Yanik Zeder (Swisens AG) for their work on Real-time pollen monitoring using digital holography.

Dr. Lukas Durdina and his Co-authors first reported particulate matter emissions of a business jet aircraft measured according to a new international emissions standard

Business aviation is a relatively small but steadily growing and little investigated emissions source. Regarding emissions, aircraft turbine engines rated below 26.7 kN thrust are certified only for visible smoke and are excluded from the non-volatile particulate matter (nvPM) standard. Emissions data for small engines are lacking. As the demand for air travel surges, fuel burn from commercial aviation is expected to double in 40 the next 15 years. The fleet is even predicted to grow worldwide by 33% in the next 8 years.

Small plane - low emissions?

Despite the small aircraft size and relatively low fuel burn, the nvPM mass emission rates were up to a factor of 3 higher than previously reported for the Boeing 737 engines. We have shown here that a modern business jet may emit as much nvPM from airport operations as an airliner. The comparison with airliners at cruise altitude suggests that nvPM emissions from a business jet flight may be higher than those of an airliner. Expressed as a per-person burden (assuming 180 airliner passengers and 5 business jet passengers), the nvPM mass emissions are higher by a factor of 72 and the nvPM number emissions are higher by a factor of 24.

This study will serve for the development of emission inventories and the results could also be used in the regulatory framework for assessing the emissions certification requirements of small aircraft turbine engines

Durdina, L., Brem, B. T., Schönenberger, D., Siegerist, F., Anet, J. G., & Rindlisbacher, T. (2019). Nonvolatile Particulate Matter Emissions of a Business Jet Measured at Ground Level and Estimated for Cruising Altitudes. Environmental Science and Technology, 53(21), 12865–12872.

falcon award2020
Sunrise above the Falcon 900 EX with the exhaust sampling probe and instruments in place. Photo: Lukas Durdina.

As new real-time pollen monitoring devices emerge, there is a growing need for processing the large amount of measurement data in an accurate and efficient way. Eric Sauvageat and Yanik Zeder develop and validate a new algorithm to classify real-time particle measurements taken by the “Swisens Poleno”. This instrument is currently the only operational pollen monitoring device using digital holography.

To identify and classify the pollen particles measured by the Poleno, the holographic images are first used to separate pollen candidates from other particles based on their general shape. As a second step a machine learning algorithm was developed and trained by inserting known pollen particles in the device. The resulting dataset is then used on the unknown pollen grains to discriminate between the different taxa. This two-step procedure enabled the system to identify and classify 8 pollen types, whereby 6 of them had accuracies greater than 90%. In addition to the classification ability of the device, the authors also investigated the counting accuracy of the Poleno by performing controlled chamber experiments.

(Sauvageat, E., Zeder, Y., Auderset, K., Calpini, B., Clot, B., Crouzy, B., Konzelmann, T., Lieberherr, G., Tummon, F., and Vasilatou, K.: Real-time pollen monitoring using digital holography, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 13, 1539–1550,, 2020)


Frau Dr Giulia StefenelliPress relase:    Download: pdfSwissAerosolAward-2019_Giulia-Stefenelli.pdf58.7 kB

Dr. Giulia Stefenelli, PhD of ETH Zürich and researcher at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Würenlingen, has received yesterday in Berne the Swiss Aerosol Award 2019 for her excellent work about biomass burning*.

Giulia Stefenelli and coauthors present herein a new method to model the secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation from complex emissions with a special focus on biomass burning. Biomass burning emissions from residential combustion are a major source of gaseous and particulate air pollution on urban, regional and global scales.

Here, using smog chamber measurements, the authors estimate the contribution of different precursor classes to the SOA formed during emission aging. They demonstrate that SOA yields of these precursor classes in complex emissions can largely be represented by yields determined using single precursors. For SOA yield calculations, they developed a new box model solved using advanced data science techniques.

This modelling framework may be generalizable for other complex emissions sources, enabling the determination of the contributions of different chemical classes at a level of complexity suitable for implementation in regional air quality models. The authors reveal the most important precursors in biomass burning emissions, and the modelling framework developed can be used to follow the evolution of their oxidation products in the particle phase, allowing a direct comparison with molecular composition measurements using recently developed chemical ionization mass spectrometers.

SOA production by most of these precursors has received little study so far; therefore, data analysis methods developed here suggest directions for future laboratory studies and a clear path for constraining SOA effects and supporting source specific mitigation policies.

*Secondary organic aerosol formation from smoldering and flaming combustion of biomass: a box model parametrization based on volatility basis set.


Giulia Stefenelli, Jianhui Jiang, Amelie Bertrand, Emily A. Bruns, Simone M. Pieber, Urs Baltensperger et al; Atmos. Chem. Phys., 19, 11461–11484, 2019;

Media Release     pdfpd_swissaerosolaward_2018.pdf99.65 kB

GDI engines are many times more dangerous to health than modern diesel vehicles
Award for research into the emission behavior of direct-injection gasoline vehicles (GDI)

This year's Swiss Aerosol Award in the amount of CHF 5,000 goes to Dr. Ing. Maria Muñoz of the Federal Materials Testing and Research Institute Empa. Dr. Muñoz has studied the emission behavior of so-called GDI engines (gasoline-direct injection).

The results are frightening:
The exhaust gases of the investigated vehicles, which are on the rise worldwide, contain up to 17 times more carcinogenic substances than those of modern diesel vehicles.