With the support from the Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) Program in the Division of Chemistry, the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE) at the University of California, San Diego, is partnering with 10 other institutions and conducts highly collaborative research in the field of atmospheric aerosol chemistry, with a focus on understanding the role of chemistry in sea spray aerosols. Aerosol particles in marine environments play a critical role in controlling cloud formation and lifetime, atmospheric chemical composition, surface temperature and precipitation patterns, and human and ecosystem health. CAICE research is providing new insights into aerosol chemistry which will enable more robust predictions on the impact of aerosol particles on air quality, climate, and the hydrologic cycle. In addition to illustrating the central role of chemistry in environmental processes that impacts research disciplines spanning from physical oceanography to marine biology, CAICE is actively developing new experimental and computational tools with applications in chemical research involving soft materials, nanomaterials, small sensor development, and colloidal science. Beyond their research experience, students involved in CAICE receive interdisciplinary training in research ethics, effective science communication, and entrepreneurialism, equipping them with the required tools to address future grand challenges in science. CAICE research is shared via a spectrum of educational and outreach activities, including: 1) science communication and outreach through storytelling, 2) CAICE-developed CLEAR (Collaborative Learning in Environmental and Aerosol Research) particle counters used in formal and informal education, and 3) general public outreach events in close collaboration with the UC San Diego's Birch Aquarium and other public venues.
The primary objective of CAICE involves developing molecular level insight into chemical processes occurring in the marine atmosphere. CAICE studies are investigating how chemical heterogeneity, morphology, phase, and molecular composition, at the individual aerosol particle level, control the properties and reactivity of marine aerosols. To achieve these goals, CAICE utilizes a unique experimental ocean-atmosphere interaction facility designed to bring the full complexity of the ocean-atmosphere system directly into the laboratory to allow investigations into aerosol formation and chemical transformations in a controlled setting. These signature experiments serve to guide molecular level investigations through the distillation of chemical complexity and the identification of molecular building blocks that can be used to replicate the complex atmospheric interfaces. To accomplish these goals, CAICE research is divided into three research themes: 1) Production and characterization of marine aerosol particles: Replicating the chemical complexity of the ocean-atmosphere system in the laboratory, 2) Chemical reactions at environmental interfaces: Gas and aerosol transformations, 3) Molecular level impacts of marine aerosols on water uptake and ice nucleation. Through highly collaborative research, CAICE is developing a fundamental and chemically accurate picture of marine aerosol chemistry that will enable accurate predictions of the impact of marine aerosols on our environment.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.