The human development of our planet has a variety of negative impacts on the composition of its atmosphere at every scale – locally, regionally, and even globally. One of these dramatic changes has been the increase in the mass concentrations of sub-micrometer particles by one to sometimes two orders of magnitude over populated areas in the Northern Hemisphere. These atmospheric aerosols can cause serious health problems, reduce visibility, contribute to acidic deposition and material damage, but are also cooling the planet by reflecting sunlight back to space.
Atmospheric particles may be emitted directly but the majority of the mass of the small particles is formed in the atmosphere by transformation of gaseous emissions such as sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic substances. Some of the particles sources are anthropogenic but nature can be a significant contributor of some components. The particles over a given area can be of local origin, but they may have traveled thousands of kilometers to get there. Atmospheric chemistry occurs within a fabric of complicated atmospheric dynamics and physics. This interplay often results in nonlinear and often counterintuitive changes of the system when anthropogenic emissions change. A major goal of our research has been to gain a predictive understanding of the physical and chemical processes that govern the dynamics, size, and chemical composition of atmospheric aerosols.
To illustrate the advances in the experimental techniques and theoretical tools in atmospheric aerosol science we will attempt to design a particulate matter control strategy for the Eastern US. The first step in the process will be to quantify the severity and the causes of the problem. Then we will attempt to identify the origin of the particles and their mass. Finally, we will use the theoretical tools to evaluate the responses of the atmospheric system to changes in emissions and climate but also the potential unintended consequences of different air quality control strategies.
Spyros Pandis is the Elias Research Professor of Chemical Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy in Carnegie Mellon University and Professor in the Chemical Engineering Department of the University of Patras in Greece. He received his PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 1991 and joined the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University in 1993 and of the University of Patras in 2004. His research includes theoretical and experimental studies of atmospheric chemistry as it relates to urban and regional pollution and topics related to global climate change. Professor Pandis has published approximately 150 journal articles and a book on atmospheric chemistry and air pollution. He is the recipient of the NSF Career Award, the Ladd Award for Excellence in Research, the Benjamin Teare Award for Excellence in Education, and the Ken Whitby Award. He is the president of the American Association for Aerosol Research and one of the editors of Aerosol Science & Technology and Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.