Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Network to Examine the Power of Aerosols

30.09.2009
They’re tiny, tiny, tiny—no bigger than 2.5 microns or about 20 times smaller than the diameter of an average human hair—and yet they have the potential to change the way clouds form and to affect rain and snowfall patterns. They heat or cool parts of the atmosphere. And they get sucked deep into our lungs.

They’re called aerosols, miniscule particles and droplets that float in the global atmosphere. And they’re the focus of a new national research network that includes Dalhousie University researchers.

The Canadian Aerosol Research Network (CARN) has been started with $15 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, governmental agencies and industrial partners. The money will include creating infrastructure for the Atlantic Aerosol Research Centre, to be based at Dalhousie University on the east coast, the University of British Columbia Centre for Aerosol Research on the west coast, and the Southern Ontario Centre for Aerosol Research at the University of Toronto.

“We’re interested in what’s in those particles,” says Judy Guernsey, one of the lead investigators with CARN and associate professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine. “They could be metal oxides, combustion byproducts, dust, soil, sea salt spray, oil droplets… We’re interested in how they behave in the air, their chemical reactions, and how they behave once we breathe them in.”

Aerosols, both solids and liquids, are generated both naturally and as a result of human activities. Volcanic activity, forest fires, wind blown soil, mold, and marine-derived particles such as sea spray and gaseous emissions from phytoplankton and sea weed are the most common natural sources of aerosols.

Human-produced aerosols come primarily from smoke, such as coal-burning power plants and the internal combustion engines of cars, trucks and ships. Pollutant gases such as volatile organic compounds, oxides of sulfur and nitrogen emitted by fossil fuel combustion react with other gases, such as ammonia from agricultural activity, to generate secondary aerosols and ground-level ozone as a result of complex chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Because of their small size, aerosols can penetrate the deepest part of the lungs and lead to such health problems as asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Indeed, there is strong evidence now that aerosols emitted by vehicles actually exacerbate asthma.

One of the main themes of the Atlantic Aerosol Research Centre and CARN is to disentangle which aerosols are natural and which are the result of human activity. “We want to know how they behave in the atmosphere over time and ultimately how these different aerosols impact health and the environment,” says Mark Gibson, senior research scientist with CARN and an environmental health chemist.

The funding ($4.2 million for Dalhousie) will go to setting up a permanent laboratory for the research within the Faculty of Medicine, acquiring some high-powered equipment that will process air pollution data acquired by satellites, and modeling the spatial variability of air pollution locally, nationally and even globally. A new environmental health faculty member will be recruited to help direct the work of the network. The centre is truly cross-disciplinary, drawing expertise from the Departments of Community Health and Epidemiology, Physics and Atmospheric Science, Chemistry, Oceanography, Civil Engineering and the College of Sustainability.

“It’s very exciting for us—we’ll have the first fully equipped research laboratory dedicated to studying environmental health in Atlantic Canada,” says Dr. Guernsey.

Dr. Guernsey and her colleague Dr. Gibson have laid the groundwork for aerosol research through their work with the Atlantic RURAL Centre. They’re currently engaged in studies for Health Canada examining the residential indoor air quality of 50 Halifax homes, wood smoke exposure in the Annapolis Valley and “fugitive dust,” airborne particles from contaminated sites such as former gold mines.

“Once the lab is set up, there will be spin offs. We’ll be able to look at any toxic agent(s) found in water, food, soil or the air,” says Dr. Gibson.

“And not just here in Atlantic Canada,” adds Dr. Guernsey. “One of our colleagues is now examining personal exposure to poor air quality in rural Kenya and we are planning similar research in India.”

Charles Crosby | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.dal.ca

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>