- Number 376 |
- November 19, 2012
Brookhaven Lab’s Chongai Kuang is particular about atmospheric particles
Brookhaven's Chongai Kuang.
In 2009, Chongai Kuang’s Ph.D. advisor at the University of Minnesota brought him to a Department of Energy meeting where he was introduced to members of Brookhaven Lab’s environmental science group. “I was really impressed with the work that was being done at BNL and the scientific staff that they had,” he said. After completing his thesis dissertation on the formation of aerosol particles in the atmosphere, Kuang joined the BNL team.
“It was a good fit coming to BNL because in this division they want to study the life cycle of aerosols—how they are formed, the various transformations they undergo, and then how eventually they are removed from the atmosphere,” Kuang said. Modeling this process in such a comprehensive way has been the focus of Kuang’s research.
Despite being commonly understood as the spray from an aerosol spray can, aerosols are any and all suspensions of solid and liquid particles in a gas, meaning everything from dust, sea salt, and allergens to car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and pesticides. The field of aerosol science focuses not only on particle formation, but also on how these particles affect atmospheric conditions for clouds, and the ripple effect that can have on regional climates. The field also closely studies how the range of natural aerosols interact with man-made ones, providing a detailed understanding of the effect aerosols can have on human health and global climate trends. Within DOE, the models that scientists like Kuang develop are aimed at providing a better understanding of the environment for both scientists and policy makers who are tasked with developing strategies to mitigate the effects humans have on the environment with regard to aerosols.
Kuang’s thesis, titled “Atmospheric Nucleation: Measurements, Mechanisms, and Dynamics,” focused on particle formation that occurs due to both natural and man-made emissions into the atmosphere—including contributions from sources such as biological activity as well as emissions released from the burning of fossil fuels. He studied experimentally and theoretically how the particles form, and developed predictive models as well as instrumentation to measure and track particle formation. The work recently garnered the 2012 Sheldon K. Friedlander Award from the American Association of Aerosol Research (AAAR), which cited Kuang’s combination of “elegant, theoretical descriptions of key processes with much needed observational constraints,” and described him as one of the most accomplished and talented aerosol scientists in the world.
Prior to his research at the University of Minnesota, Kuang studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in chemical engineering with a minor in nanoparticle science and technology.
More recently, he collaborated on a paper published October 22, 2012, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which took an untraditional approach and formulated a new model for particle formation. The model was created entirely using experimental data instead of computation and theoretical work. “This new model—basically an acid-based reaction model for the formation of new particles—kind of breaks from the traditional view of how these particles are formed,” Kuang said.
Looking ahead, Kuang is excited to bring his expertise in aerosol science to different regions of the world, where collaboration with other scientists can yield new understanding about the inner workings of Earth’s atmosphere. “I’m looking forward to a collaboration in Finland where I’ll be building some new instrumentation and working with scientists there to study particle formation in that environment,” he said.
Further down the line, Kuang is aiming to explore and capitalize on the opportunities Brookhaven offers for multidisciplinary collaboration. He hopes to combine his expertise in nanoparticle detection with that of the members of the Center for Functioning Nanomaterials, as well as use the National Synchrotron Light Source—and its much larger and more capable successor NSLS-II—to further his study of particle formation and its impacts on the environment.
Submitted by DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory