Under the right conditions, nanoparticles can form spontaneously in
the air. Atmospheric nanoparticles are an important missing factor in
understanding global climate change, because they could influence
cloud formation and change how the Earth reflects or retains heat,
said Anthony Wexler, professor of mechanical and aeronautical
engineering at UC Davis. They may also have health effects. Wexler's
laboratory uses and develops equipment to detect these extremely
small particles. On the coast at Bodega Bay, Calif., they found
particles as small as three nanometers forming when winds are
onshore. The composition of these particles has not yet been
determined but they may be composed of sulfuric acid, Wexler said.
The source material could be dimethyl sulfide emitted naturally by
biological processes in the ocean, or sulfur dioxide emitted from
passing ships. Wexler has also developed models to study how similar
particles form close to freeways in Los Angeles.
Contact: Anthony S.
Wexler, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, (530) 754-6558,
Paper: Nanogeosciences: Measuring and modeling nanoparticle
transients in the atmosphere
Author: Anthony S. Wexler, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering,
Session: Nanotechnology and the Environment
Session date and time: 8:30 a.m. to 11:50 a.m., Monday, March 29