Atmospheric Aerosol Chemistry
- Design and conduct field research projects to understand basic processes affecting the chemistry of atmospheric trace gases and aerosols.
- Design and improve advanced instruments for field and laboratory deployment.
- Develop and use coupled meteorology/chemistry models for understanding the processes that affect atmospheric composition.
Atmospheric chemistry influences human health, climate, food production and, through its impact on visibility, our view of the world. Chemicals in the air affect us with each breath we take. Suspended particulates that are both directly emitted into the atmosphere or form from chemical reactions in it affect the amount of solar energy reaching the earth's surface. Not only government, but private industry, has a vested interest in improving our knowledge of these processes and how to predict them.
Much of the work in atmospheric chemistry at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has focused on the fate of energy-related pollutants, e.g., ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur, in the lower part of the atmosphere, beginning with their emission into the atmosphere and continuing to their deposition at the Earth's surface. Examples of past work include studies of radionuclide dispersion and deposition, the long-range transport of sulfur oxides, mechanisms governing the formation of "acid rain", nucleation of atmospheric aerosols, and the production of ozone from NOx and hydrocarbons. Almost all of these studies have involved a combination of field studies, laboratory experiments, and computer modeling.
The primary strength in atmospheric chemistry at the Laboratory is the interdisciplinary nature of the Atmospheric Chemistry group. The resulting research spans the range from molecular-level laboratory investigations of reactions on aerosol surfaces, to field studies using surface and airborne instruments, to numerical modeling studies of atmospheric chemical kinetics and the motions that bring reactants together and move them through the atmosphere. We have programs to study the formation of new aerosols from semi-volatile organic compounds, cloud-aerosol interactions and cloud microphysics. Our staff participate in risk assessment studies around the country and, in conjunction with hydrologists and geologists, have developed and used many multi-media models. We are also working with scientists at NCAR and NOAA on the development of the new Weather Research Forecasting (WRF) chemistry model, and many of our field and laboratory studies are done in close collaboration with scientists in EMSL's Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy Group and PNNL's Chemical & Materials Sciences Division.