PULLMAN, Wash. — Researchers in the Laboratory for Atmospheric Research have received an $800,000 National Science Foundation grant for the acquisition and development of an atmospheric chemistry mobile laboratory.

Led by Tom Jobson, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the researchers will use the laboratory — a trailer loaded with a suite of instruments — to study the impact of fossil fuel and biological emissions on atmospheric chemistry related to air quality and aerosol formation.

Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere. Produced by burning of fossil fuels, volcanic eruptions or blowing dust, aerosols have an important but poorly understood impact on the climate.

In particular, a better understanding of aerosol chemical composition and physical properties will help the researchers better understand the relative importance of fossil fuel emissions and gases emitted from trees on aerosol concentrations.

The research will also lead to better understanding of regional variations in pollution, and the impact of urban and industrial emissions on the health of local ecosystems.  The mobile facility will enable multidisciplinary collaborative field research amongst WSU faculty studying chemicals in the environment.

The grant will allow researchers to take an integrated look at aerosols, using several instruments to measure things like height profiles of aerosols and clouds, particle sizes, and gas concentrations. The lab will also contain a basic weather station. Because it’s mobile, the laboratory allows the researchers to take valuable measurements that can be used for comparisons to computer models of atmospheric activity.

In particular, the researchers hope to better understand the relationship between the gases that contribute to aerosol formation, their chemical transformation and their impact on atmospheric chemistry. They also hope to study chemical and physical properties of aerosols.

In addition to its research uses, the laboratory will be used for training undergraduate and graduate students.
The Laboratory for Atmospheric Research at Washington State has a national reputation in the measurement of biosphere-atmosphere interactions that lead to aerosol formation. Within the past year, four new faculty members have joined the laboratory with special expertise in aerosol measurement and modeling.

In addition to Jobson, researchers on the project include Marc Beutel, David Evans, Tim VanReken, George Mount, David Yonge, Brian Lamb and Kristen Johnson.