The Flemish Institute for Technological Research, (Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek, VITO) is an independent research centre in the Flemish region of Belgium, with nearly 700 personnel. VITO conducts customer oriented contract research and develops innovative products and processes in the fields of energy, environment and materials, for both the public and the private sector. Central to all projects is the aim to protect the environment and encourage the sustainable use of energy and raw materials. One of our core competences is multi-disciplinary research collaboration, by combining technological, environmental and economic insights (www.vito.be). VITO has a strong track record in delivering products and services to e.g. the Flemish Regional Government, the European Commission, ESA and Industry. This experience means that it is well placed to respond to the needs for policy relevant environmental information at local, regional, European and global scales.
The research within VITO is structured in several units, including the Environmental Modeling Unit among others. The 60 researchers working within this unit focus on issues such as the availability of space, clean air, safe drinking water, unpolluted rivers and conservation of soils – issues influencing the health and life quality of people. One of the teams within the Environmental Modeling Unit is specialized in modelling of atmospheric processes and assessing air quality at local, urban and regional scales. The models are used in national and international projects. The transboundary nature of air pollution necessitates the availability of models that can be applied to large domains both inside and outside of Europe. Within this scope the models were refined, especially with respect to the simulation of particulate matter (PM), in order to provide scientifically sound policy support on actual air quality problems related to fine dust or PM. At a somewhat smaller scale air quality in urban areas is modelled, for example by means of a daily forecast of the air quality, an air quality assessment or a scenario study in various cities in Belgium, Europe and China. At the local scale the classical Gaussian dispersion modelling approach is used as well as more recent CFD techniques, e.g. to compute the impact of functional green elements (parks, trees) on air quality (PM, NO2).
Research topics are related to techniques that can refine and improve the quality of the air quality modelling. Data assimilation techniques are used to obtain information from satellite images, the use of ground based monitoring stations aims at integrating this information into models. In this respect, emission modelling plays an important role in our research, especially the spatial disaggregation of national or other low-resolution emission inventories to high-resolution emission input for air quality models. To this end experts in emission downscaling and GIS specialists are part of the atmospheric processes modelling team. They have a sound experience of national, European and global emission inventories, emissions activity data, GIS databases and tools and spatial and air dispersion modelling techniques.
The main tasks of VITO are the coordination of WP4, the construction of a satellite-based emission inventory for East China by combining emission estimates from space and bottom up information, modelling of air quality for the city of Yangzhou in the Yangtze River Delta, and dissemination of air quality indicators.