Personal profile


Peter has now retired and lives in Hong Kong.

I was born in Australia, but went to university in Auckland, New Zealand where I did a PhD on the aqueous chemistry of sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere. I am a Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry and was appointed senior editor of Atmospheric Environment in 1990. I am convinced that environmental pollution is not merely a matter of environmental chemistry. The smells have to be smelt. Painting and poetry can be as informative as a scientific description when trying to understand the complexities of environmental problems. I admire detective writers; no crap and their hearts are in the right place. The title of my book The Big Smoke was meant remind us of Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, so I was pleased when this academic book was reviewed as "reading like a thriller". Recently I have been thinking much about the representation air pollution in cinema in flims such as Blade Runner.


Key Research Interests

Although I remain interested in atmospheric sulphur chemistry that formed the subject of my PhD in the early 1970s, I am currently concerned with the thermodynamics of the concentrated aqueous aerosol and in recent years this has been applied to organic materials with a special focus on humic like substances and airborne surfactants. I continue to be interested in long-term changes in urban air pollution and its effects on health and building damage. The historical aspects of this work formed the subject of a book, The Big Smoke, and have recently focussed on Victorian and Edwardian Britain. My interest in material damage by air pollutants has not been restricted to outdoor environments. I have done some work on the museum atmosphere and have a continuing interest in the process of damage to cultural materials by air pollutants. 

Significant publications

  • Brimblecombe, P. (2005) The Globalization of Local Air Pollution, Globalizations 2, 429-441. doi: 10.1080/14747730500368114
  • P. Brimblecombe and C. Grossi (2005) Aesthetic thresholds and blackening of stone buildings, Science of the Total Environment 349, 175-189 doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2005.01.009
  • M.T. Latif and P. Brimblecombe (2004) Surfactants in atmospheric aerosols Environmental Science and Technology, 38, 6501-6506. DOI: 10.1021/es049109n
  • Lifongo, L. L., Bowden, D. and Brimblecombe, P. (2004) Photodegradation of haloacetic acids in water,Chemosphere, 55, 467-476. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2003.11.006
  • C. Grossi and P. Brimblecombe (2004) Aesthetics of simulated soiling patterns on architecture,Environmental Science and Technology, 38, 3971-3976. doi:10.1021/es0353762
  • Clegg SL Seinfeld JH. Brimblecombe P (2001) Thermodynamic modelling of aqueous aerosols containing electrolytes and dissolved organic compounds, Aerosol Science 32, 713-738.doi:10.1016/S0021-8502(00)00105-1

Publications: EPrints Digital Repository

Areas of Expertise

History of air pollution; air pollution, climate change and cultural heritage; air pollution chemistry.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action