Rajan Chakrabarty, the Harold D. Jolley Career Development Associate Professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of 13 scientists who recently received funding through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Facilities Integrating Collaborations for User Science (FICUS) program. With an $80,000 grant, Chakrabarty will study land-atmosphere processes and aerosol-cloud interactions at the DOE’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) and Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) facilities. The work will complement Chakrabarty’s ongoing DOE-funded project to improve measurement tools for aerosol light absorption.

Chakrabarty and collaborators Rohan Mishra, associate professor of mechanical engineering & materials science in the McKelvey School of Engineering, and Alexander Laskin, professor of analytical chemistry at Purdue University, will explore how physical and chemical properties of aerosols are distributed vertically in the air by studying individual atmospheric particles collected by ARM’s tethered balloon system. The work is part of the DOE’s Tracking Aerosol Convection Experiment (TRACER) campaign.

“Using the state-of-the-art facilities at EMSL, we will characterize a wide range of aerosol chemical and physical properties in detail as a function of altitude, sampled during the TRACER campaign in Houston, Texas, during the summer of 2022,” Chakrabarty said. “The project will enable us to understand the composition of particles that can act as cloud condensation nuclei over the Houston area.”

The team plans to conduct systematic chemical imaging studies of the composition and physical properties of airborne particles. This analysis will support their study of how natural and anthropogenic sources contribute to aerosol population during representative meteorological conditions and which particles tend to act as cloud condensation nuclei. The results of this research are expected to provide critical feedback to further develop and evaluate atmospheric models.

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 165 full-time faculty, 1,420 undergraduate students, 1,614 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

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