Atmospheric particles that become acidic through exposure to such pollutants as sulfuric acid can lead to vast increases in the formation of secondary organic aerosols, a new study indicates. Such aerosols are major components of the unsightly haze that hangs over cities and oil refineries and even affects otherwise pristine U.S. national parks.
A report on the research appears in Fridays (Oct. 25) issue of the journal Science. Authors, all at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are Dr. Myoseon Jang, research associate; doctoral students Nadine M. Czoschke and Sangdon Lee; and Richard M. Kamens, professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC School of Public Health.
"We think this exciting work is potentially very important and so do other scientists we have discussed it with across the United States," said Kamens. "What Dr. Jang has done in our laboratory was to discover an acid-catalyzed process that brings about secondary organic aerosol formation. "She also has found that this under-appreciated reaction may generate five to 10 times more aerosol in the atmosphere than we previously thought," he said. "It appears to explain a number of different kinds of phenomena that lead to aerosol formation."
David Williamson | EurekAlert!
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