Photolysis of Atmospheric Brown Carbon Abstract

Earth’s atmosphere is home to a wide variety of organic compounds and chemical processes that affect our air quality, environment, and health. One class of these compounds is a type of light-absorbing molecule known as brown carbon. Brown carbon’s primary sources are numerous and include biomass burning and fossil fuel pollution. Once in the atmosphere, brown carbon can form aerosols, undergo secondary reactions, and have warming or cooling effects. It can also react with visible light to decompose. Its mechanisms and rates of transformation in the atmosphere are not well characterized and we are ultimately uncertain of its net effects on atmospheric warming and cooling.

For my honors project, I plan to study two species of brown carbon: 4-Nitrophenol and beta-caryophyllene. I will conduct experiments exposing them to simulated solar radiation and measure their atmospheric lifetimes. In addition, I will investigate the effects of wet and dry phase on 4-Nitrophenol’s photodegradation and the photodegradation of beta-caryophyllene in its secondary aerosol form.

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