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Billerica, MA, United States

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 200.00K | Year: 2015

This project is a collaborative effort among four institutions to improve understanding of the fundamental life cycle of atmospheric aerosol. The effort focuses on processes for the formation of very small particles in the atmosphere over a range of conditions. The goal of the proposed studies is to facilitate more accurate predictions of the influence of these particles on climate by conducting laboratory measurements that reduce uncertainties related to modeling their formation, growth and atmospherically important properties.

Together the project team has extensive capabilities that include the ability to produce primary aerosol particles such as soot and secondary organic aerosol (SOA), measure and control the particle size and mass distributions, control oxidative aging of such particles via hydroxyl radical and ozone reactions over equivalent atmospheric lifetimes ranging from hours to multiple days, control production of both inorganic and organic particle coatings, measure the chemical composition of gas- and condensed-phase organic compounds, measure the cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity of generated particles, and measure particle optical properties.

The proposed three-year laboratory research program will provide detailed information on relevant physiochemical properties of SOA as a function of oxidative processing, including interactions of gas-phase precursors with the condensed SOA. The SOA particles will be generated in conventional environmental chambers as well as in a more recently developed flow reactor that can produce SOA with high throughput over a wide range of simulated atmospheric conditions. The flow reactor enables controlled hydroxyl radical (OH) oxidation of atmospherically relevant gas phase and condensed-phase organic compounds. The residence time in the reactor is about two orders of magnitude shorter (minutes rather than days) and the OH concentration is two to three orders of magnitude higher than is attainable in environmental chambers.

This project will provide a more reliable database for modeling and predicting the role of aerosols in climate change and lead to a detailed understanding of how the chemical, physical and optical properties of carbonaceous aerosols are interconnected and how they change as a function of oxidative aging.

Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.20M | Year: 2015

Aerosol particles are known to affect the global climate through direct absorption and reflection of solar radiation and through cloud formation. Globally, it is believed that ~50% of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) originate from atmospheric new particle formation and growth. Sulfuric acid vapor plays a key role in new particle formation, although detailed mechanisms remain unclear. Recent experiments have shown that trace levels of organic amine vapors can enhance particle nucleation by 1000 times or more compared to sulfuric acid alone or sulfuric acid plus ammonia. Amine vapor concentrations are typically very low and at the detection limit of current measurement techniques. The evaluation of atmospheric nucleation rates and particle growth is limited by sparse amine vapor measurements and the resulting lack of knowledge of atmospheric amine budgets. The proposed use of amines for CO2 sequestration may increase ambient amine concentrations and has significant implications for aerosol CCN budgets and their cloud interactions. This SBIR project will develop an instrument for the detection of ambient amines with a factor of 10 to 1000 times better sensitivity than current instruments, in order to improve characterization of global amine budgets and our understanding of their role in aerosol formation. We will develop and commercialize a new chemical ionization mass spectrometer that employs sulfuric acid cluster ionization chemistry for the selective and quantitative detection of gas-phase organic amines. The Phase I project successfully demonstrated the feasibility of detecting organic amines and ammonia in the 1 to 10 parts per trillion by volume concentration range in both laboratory experiments and in ambient air using the proposed technology. The Phase II project will focus on further refinement of the sulfuric acid cluster ion source and inlet, calibration schemes, and construction of a prototype instrument with evaluation in both laboratory and field settings. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The initial market for this instrument will be atmospheric research groups at universities and national laboratories with research programs focusing on new particle formation and growth. Larger applications include carbon capture and sequestration pilot projects using amine solvents, amine gas treatment at refineries and natural gas processing plants, forensic science, and breath analysis. We expect that the system developed in this program will yield a significant level of direct commercial sales and contract field measurements.

Agency: Department of Commerce | Branch: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 400.00K | Year: 2015

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are primary drivers of global climate change. Hence there is a crucial need to quantify their sources and sinks. A powerful method to constrain source and sink strengths is the analysis of the relative proportions of isotopic variants of GHG’s in atmospheric samples like those collected globally by NOAA’s Cooperative Air Sampling Network. Measurements that are capable of informing climate science require extremely high precision. The standard technique, isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS), is precise but is limited by laborious sample processing requirements, high capital cost, high maintenance and impracticality of field deployment. We avoid these limitations with an alternative method to measure the isotopic composition of the most important GHG: carbon dioxide. Using Tunable Infrared Laser Direct Absorption Spectroscopy (TILDAS), we demonstrate measurement precision at least as good as IRMS and exceeding that requested until Sub-Topic 8.3.1 for ō13C-CO2 (0.006 vs. 0.01‰_ and ō18O-CO2 (0.007 vs. 0.02‰). During Phase II we will produce and demonstrate a commercial instrument meeting this standard while measuring small discreet air samples (

Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2016

We propose to develop a highly sensitive and compact RGB DPAS aerosol absorption monitor for NASA's Airborne Measurement Program. It will measure aerosol light absorption simultaneous at three spectral regions: blue, green and red. The proposed measurement technique takes advantage of the current rapid development on high-power semiconductor lasers MEMS microphones. It will eventually weigh less than 25 pounds and consume approximately 300W electrical power. It will also be capable of being remotely controlled and being operated at a variety of sampling pressure conditions for the airborne measurements. Since majority of the electronic and optical components of the proposed system are commercially available except the home-designed acoustic cells, its total manufacturing cost could be less than $20,000 per unit.

Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

We will design, build and test a multi-color (red, green, blue) particle optical extinction monitor suitable for use in either land or airborne applications. The monitor will also contain a fourth measurement cell to allow for real-time subtraction of interferences caused by gas phase interferents such as nitrogen dioxide. The instrument will fit into a rack-mountable box that less than 13" high (7U). Its time response will be less than 2 seconds and its precision (1 sigma) better than 1 inverse megameter in 1 second. The accuracy of the measurements will be within 5% of the values obtained using measurements of polystyrene latex spheres. It will provide user access through serial and/or USB port connections as well as over the Internet. A working unit will be delivered to NASA langley Research Center.

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