Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts

University of California, Irvine

Election Year: 2006
Primary Section: 16, Geophysics
Secondary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

My research is centered on obtaining a molecular level understanding of reactions that are known, or have the potential, to occur in the atmosphere. This detailed understanding of both the kinetics and mechanisms is needed in order to accurately parameterize the chemistry in computer kinetics models on local to regional and global scales. My research has focused in two areas: (1) reactions of airborne sea salt particles; and (2) reactions of oxides of nitrogen in thin water films on surfaces. In the first case, we have shown in laboratory studies that the chloride and bromide ions found in sea salt particles can be converted in photochemically active gases via reaction with trace gases found in the atmosphere. These gases serve as sources of highly reactive chlorine and bromine atoms that alter the chemistry of marine areas. A particularly important finding was that some reactions actually occur at the air-water interface of the sea salt particles, rather than inside the bulk of the particle. In the second case, we have shown that when NO2 reacts in thin water films on laboratory reactors (which also occurs on the surfaces of buildings, vegetation etc. in the atmosphere), the reaction generates not only gaseous nitrous acid, but also nitric acid on the surface that is largely undissociated and complexed to water at lower relative humidities. This finding is quite unexpected, and its implications for atmospheric chemistry are currently being explored.

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