UCI receives $2.6 million grant to study chemistry of water-air interaction

November 14, 2002

Irvine, Calif., Nov. 14, 2002 -- A team of UC Irvine scientists has received a $2.6 million National Science Foundation grant to study the chemical reactions occurring between air and water surfaces, such as those of oceans. Information gained from these reactions may provide new information on their relationship to air pollution, acid raid and overall atmospheric chemistry.

UCI is one of five institutions nationwide to receive this federal funding. Chemists Barbara Finlayson-Pitts, R. Benny Gerber, John Hemminger and Douglas Tobias, and mechanical engineer Donald Dabdub will use the five-year grant to explore these complex chemical reactions and their impact on the atmosphere. Study results will be incorporated into a state-of-the-art computer model of the Southern California airshed to assess how these processes contribute to air pollution and atmospheric chemistry in the region.

Two international collaborators will work with the UCI team: Pavel Jungwirth with the Academy of Science of the Czech Republic and Leon F. Phillips with the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

"The study of these chemical reactions is receiving increasing scientific interest because relatively little is known about these processes, yet they have potential importance in several areas, including the atmosphere," said Finlayson-Pitts, who has studied the impact of sea salts and nitrogen oxides on the atmosphere.

Recent research, both at UCI and other institutions, have found that this chemistry could be important in air, for example, where particles containing water are in contact with a variety of natural and pollutant gases. Such particles commonly contain dissolved acids, salts and a variety of organic molecules and contribute to acid rain, atmospheric ozone formation and global climate change. In addition, such air-water interfaces are important in biological systems such as vegetation and the human lung, both of which are exposed to gases in air.

The research will incorporate experiments and theory in order to reveal the nature of various dissolved particles at the air-water interface and how these interact or react with gases. Dissolved particles that will be studied include nitrate and sulfate ions, important components of acid rain. The gases will include such compounds as ozone, a major air pollutant and greenhouse gas, and sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are both involved with smog formation.

This research will involve a number of undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, who will have a unique opportunity to participate in the wide breadth of research encompassed by this project. UCI scientists working on the project come from the Department of Chemistry in the School of Physical Sciences and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering.
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UCI is a top-ranked public university dedicated to the principles of research, scholarship and community. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,200 faculty members. The second-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact that exceeds $2.65 billion.

A complete archive of press releases is available on the World Wide Web at www.today.uci.edu.

University of California - Irvine

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