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Our Research

What is Atmospheric Chemistry?

"When I interact with other chemists, I like to give the analogy that the atmosphere is like a large round bottom flask, where countless chemical reactions are taking place. For example, the emissions from anthropogenic and biogenic sources are the starting materials. The wind and turbulence act as stir bars and the sunlight acts as a hot plate. The round bottom flask also contains water, a crucial molecule to atmospheric chemistry, because it transports heat through the atmosphere, serves as a solvent for atmospheric aqueous reactions, and cleans the atmosphere through wet deposition.

Water is also a precursor to the major oxidant in the atmosphere: the hydroxyl (OH) radical, the so-called atmospheric detergent. The real atmosphere has all these processes occurring simultaneously and we arguably understand a fraction of the chemical processes that lead to air pollution and climate change! The NBD research group has an atmospheric organic chemistry expertise applied to the fields of indoor and outdoor air chemistry, and of atmospheric ice nucleation (Figure 1). Our research is collaborative to allow us to ask big-picture questions with implications for air quality and climate."

- Dr. Nadine Borduas-Dedekind

Bringing the Organic and Analytical Chemistry Toolkit to Atmospheric Processes: 

The NBD group studies the chemical mechanisms governing the fate of organic molecules in the atmosphere. Whether these molecules are in cloud droplets, in fragrant indoor air or emitted from a wildfire, we’re interested in measuring their chemical reactions to predict their atmospheric lifetimes. We’ve gained expertise using proton-transfer-reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometers to measure fragrance molecules and organic selenium compounds in real time in the lab and in the field. Furthermore, we’ve developed droplet freezing techniques and cryo-microscopy techniques using high speed imaging to track the mechanism of how wildfire smoke can impact ice cloud formation. We also leverage the expertise of collaborators and work on multi-disciplinary projects to tackle big picture questions about air quality and climate.

Research Subcategories

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Our Goal:

To advance fundamental atmospheric chemistry knowledge and enable the predictive capability of the lifetime of organic molecules in the context of air quality and climate.

Our Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches:

Our group addresses research questions in atmospheric chemistry using laboratory measurements and field work to tackle top-down and bottom-approaches. These perspectives allow us to study complex atmospheric processes holistically.

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Photochemical Oxidants

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Atmospheric Ice Nucleation

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Fate of Indoor Air Molecules

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Biogeochemical Cycle of Atmospheric Selenium (Se)

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