The atmosphere can be considered a vast reaction vessel. The hydrocarbons that are emitted by plants or human activity are continually oxidized when they are in the air, forming either oxygenated gases or secondary organic aerosol (SOA) particles. The type and quantity of gases and particles formed significantly depend on the extent of anthropogenic influence on these oxidation processes. Important examples of anthropogenic influence include the emissions of nitric oxide (NO) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) from fuel combustion and power plants.
Anthropogenically-influenced chemistry enhance the production of EPA-regulated pollutants such as tropospheric ozone and particles. In addition to their effects on air quality (leading to poor visibility and adverse human health), particles have been determined to be the “main cause of the large uncertainty” in understanding anthropogenic climate change.
Research in the group focuses on understanding (1) the gas-phase oxidation mechanisms in the atmosphere, (2) how human activity changes these oxidation pathways, and (3) how different oxidation pathways affects the composition and properties of SOA (including toxicity and light absorption).
We use custom mass spectrometry tools to analyze the detailed composition of aerosols and trace gases. We use a large Teflon Atmospheric Chamber to study atmospheric reactions.