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Release: March 22, 2001

UI researchers Grassian, Carmichael receive $640,000 environmental grant

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Vicki Grassian, associate professor in the department of chemistry in the UI College of Liberal Arts and the department of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, and Gregory Carmichael, professor in the department of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, have received a four-year, $640,824 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant for atmospheric studies.

The study involves evaluating the role of heterogeneous reactions, such as those including sulfur dioxide, on dust and other particulates and determining how the photochemical oxidant cycle, or daytime chemistry involving trace atmospheric gases, is affected. Grassian says that there is increasing evidence that heterogeneous chemistry, involving ozone and its precursors, plays an important role in the troposphere -- the region of the atmosphere that extends from the Earth's surface to 30,000 feet above the surface. Tropospheric ozone and particulate matter can cause serious health problems. Grassian and Carmichael are interested in determining how particulates, such as soot and mineral dust, affect the chemical balance of the atmosphere and in characterizing the surface of atmospheric particulates.

Grassian and her colleagues are currently conducting laboratory studies on heterogeneous reactions involving nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and ozone on particulates. Grassian, who currently has eight graduate students and two undergraduates participating in the research in her lab, says that the grant provides an opportunity for students to participate in an exciting and interdisciplinary area of research. She adds that because the research is DOE-supported, students have an opportunity to access the facilities at several national laboratories including Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Enviromental Molecular Science Institute at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Grassian also collaborates on these laboratory studies with two other faculty in the UI College of Liberal Arts, Mark Young, associate professor in the department of chemistry and Paul Kleiber, professor of physics.

Carmichael and his coworkers are using the data generated in Grassian's laboratory in their atmospheric chemistry models in order to assess the global impact of heterogeneous reactions. Carmichael is working on the modeling studies with a research team consisting of graduate and undergraduate students.

Grassian is an expert in the field of environmental catalysis and heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry. Her work has focused on investigations of chemical reactions on solid particle surfaces and their role in environmental remediation and the chemical balance of the atmosphere. Carmichael is an expert in atmospheric chemistry modeling. Both are members of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER), which fosters interdisciplinary research and training in the field of environmental change and is concerned with both the scientific and human dimensions of global change. CGRER currently consists of 65 faculty, 75 graduate students, 15 postdoctoral and visiting scientists from 17 departments -- ranging from economics and law to physics and astronomy -- and six colleges at the UI and Iowa State University.