Albert Presto is an associate research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and a member of the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies (CAPS). Presto’s research focuses on pollutant emissions from energy extraction and consumption and the subsequent atmospheric transformations that these emissions undergo. Energy production and consumption is a major source of pollutants and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Gas and oil wells emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Cars and trucks operating on gasoline and diesel fuels emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. Particulate matter from mobile sources is largely the result of incomplete or inefficient combustion in the form of organic aerosol and carbon soot. In addition to the direct emissions of pollutants, dilute exhaust undergoes oxidation in the atmosphere. This oxidation chemistry can lead to the production of secondary pollutants, such as ozone and secondary particulate matter.
Presto investigates the contributions of primary and secondary pollution with ambient measurements, laboratory experiments, source testing of pollution sources, and atmospheric models. This multi-pronged and multi-disciplinary approach allows for a holistic view of pollutant emissions and transformations in the atmosphere.
In addition to having environmental impacts, these pollutants, particularly ozone and particulate matter, adversely impact human health. Presto collaborates with medical professionals to develop detailed studies of pollutant exposure on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, and to better understand the relationships between pollutant emissions and adverse health effects such as childhood asthma.
Atmospheric Impacts of the Marcellus Shale Boom
Presto on air quality research
MechE’s Albert Presto was a guest on the FutureTech Podcast and discussed his research in urban air quality. Presto was also featured in a PublicSource article asking experts about plastics and air quality.
Pittsburgh City Paper
Presto on fireworks pollution
Do Fourth of July fireworks contribute to pollution? MechE’s Albert Presto says yes, as they release fine particulate matter that is linked to asthma and heart attacks, but not at a significant level to cause worry. “The way a firework works, the reason it’s sparkling is that you’re burning something. So you get a little bit of particulate matter from shooting off fireworks, but it’s not a big concentration change,” said Presto.
Presto on steel factory’s fire and pollution
A fire broke out at a steel factory in Clairton, resulting in pollution alerts going out to nearby communities. “That area is one of the areas with the highest air pollution in the entire country,” says MechE’s Albert Presto, an atmospheric pollution expert. “This fire has contributed to it being even worse.”
Presto comments on lost productivity during shutdown
The 2018-2019 government shutdown halted a wide range of science-related agencies, including NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. MechE’s Albert Presto commented that losing a month in productivity can hurt scientists, especially those working on time-sensitive projects or just getting started.
Presto doubts claims supporting environmental regulation rollbacks
The acting EPA administrator claimed that the environmental regulation rollbacks will reduce pollution, citing emission reductions during Trump’s first year in office. MechE’s Albert Presto doubts this claim, saying it’s reasonable to assume that “the emissions reductions are a response to Obama-era policies and not anything Trump did.”
Presto quoted on pollution from household products
NPR spoke with MechE’s Albert Presto regarding a recent study that found everyday household products—soap, paint, perfume—cause as much air pollution as industry and cars combined.
Pittsburgh Business Times
Presto quoted on Beaver County air quality
Albert Presto commented that a lack of monitoring systems around a planned Beaver County ethane cracker plant is likely problematic.
Presto to speak at 2017 Asthma Summit
MechE’s Albert Presto will speak at the 2017 Asthma Summit, titled "The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Air Pollution and Asthma."
Professorships and fellowships
Congratulations to the CIT faculty members who were recently awarded fellowships and professorships.
Presto interviewed by 90.5 WESA on rooftop study
MechE’s Albert Presto was interviewed by 90.5 WESA about a new air quality study out of CMU's Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions.
Dean’s Early Career Fellows
Four distinguished young faculty have been awarded the 2017 Dean’s Early Career Fellowships for groundbreaking work in their fields.