Ultrasensitive Airborne Instrumentation for the Quantification of Aerosol Precursors
In the troposphere, carbonaceous aerosols warm the atmosphere, thereby limiting cloud production and reducing precipitation. Also, sulfate aerosols in the stratosphere reflect sunlight, moderating climate warming. In laboratory experiments, sulfate aerosol formation appears to depend in a strong and non-linear manner on ammonia concentrations. However, these processes are only starting to be studied in the field, and the remaining uncertainties are partially responsible for current limitations in the prediction of aerosol nucleation. An improved understanding of aerosol formation is not only crucial but timely, because some options being discussed for climate change mitigation involve the use of aerosol injections in the stratosphere. In order to address the impact of energy-related activities on local, regional, and global aerosol budgets, sensitive airborne and terrestrial measurements of ammonia and other aerosol precursors are needed; yet current instrumentation is expensive and heavy, and requires cryogens. In order to circumvent these limitations, this project will employ Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy (Off-Axis ICOS) technology to develop ultra-sensitive airborne instrumentation, which is capable of quantifying trace levels of ammonia and other critical aerosol precursors. This instrument will provide rapid (10 Hz), highly accurate, in situ quantification of these species in the troposphere. Commercial Applications and other Benefits as described by the awardee: The proposed sensor should be readily marketed to industrial process control and environmental research applications. For example, the analyzer can be adapted for the real-time monitoring of contaminants in ethylene gas flows. The sensor also could be the basis of scientific instrumentation that would target the environmental science market.
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Los Gatos Research
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