Seeking deeper insight into climate change
April 7, 2010
Research at ASU that promises to provide more insight into factors that influence climate change and cause air pollution will get support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The institute has awarded almost $743,000 from its Measurement Science and Engineering Research Grants Program to senior research scientist James Anderson and associate professor Peter Crozier, both in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace, Chemical and Materials Engineering, a part of ASU’s Ira A Fulton Schools of Engineering.
Their project was one of only 27 funded by the program, chosen from more than 1,300 grant proposals nationwide. Project proposals underwent administrative and technical review by more than 300 scientists and engineers working with the institute.
Anderson said studies of the greenhouse effect that contributes directly to climate change have focused on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but there are additional components in the form of aerosol particles in the atmosphere that can contribute to warming – or cooling.
Carbonaceous particles are particularly important because of their abundance in the atmosphere, and the characteristics of the carbon vary significantly depending on their origin. It is now understood that different types of carbon may contribute to local heating while other forms may play a role in cooling, Anderson said.
To understand how aerosol particles have an impact on climate change, it is important to first understand the how carbonaceous particles can absorb or scatter incoming sunlight.
Crozier and Anderson are trying to directly measure optical properties of carbonaceous aerosols using a newly developed type of advanced electron microscope that will be delivered to ASU later this year. Their microscopy technique can be used to directly determine the optical properties of individual nanoparticles over the entire visible light spectrum, as well as over the ultraviolet and infrared areas of the spectrum.
He and Crozier hope to use this approach to characterize many of the different species of carbonaceous aerosols found in the atmosphere.
“This is an exciting opportunity for ASU to use a completely new type of electron microscope to address this important environmental issue,” Crozier said.
The study will use samples of atmospheric aerosol particles collected with aircraft and ground-based monitoring sites from diverse regions throughout the world.
“If we know the optical properties and distribution of the aerosols over the entire atmosphere, then we can produce climate change models that provide more accurate predictions of the long-term consequences of man-made air pollution,” Anderson said.
Written by Jessica Graham