Current projects in the Prather group include:
1) CalWater (funded by California Energy Commission, NSF, DOE): Ground-based and aircraft (2011) field studies of aerosol and precipitation chemistry in the Sierra Nevadas. The goal of these studies is to understand how aerosols influence clouds and precipitation in California. Prof. Prather is the lead PI and was the G-1 mission scientist for flights for aerosol-cloud-precipitation studies in CalWater. In 2014, the Prather group will continue the study by going to the Bodega Bay marine lab and measuring aerosols and precipiation at this coastal location. The 2014 study is a prelude to a much larger study, CalWater-2, that will be conducted in the Winter of 2015 in northern California. It is anticipated that NSF, NOAA, DOE, NASA, and CEC will all be involved in this large scale study which will include flights over California as well as the Pacific Ocean in an effort to better understand how long range transported aerosols, marine-derived, and local pollution sources influence California precipitation processes.
2) Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE) (funded by NSF): A major effort in the Prather group involves CAICE research. This Center strives to bridge results from simplistic lab investigations and complex atmospheric studies by bringing the complexity of the real world into the lab in the form of an ocean equipped with breaking waves and natural seawater. This Center uniquely couples chemists with oceanographers and marine biologists to study how changes in ocean biology impact sea spray production, composition, and climate properties.
3) ICE-T and PRADACS ice nucleation studies (funded by NSF): These field studies involved C-130 (below) flights conducted out of St. Croix (Virgin Islands) and ground-based sampling in Puerto Rico. The goal of both studies was to better understand the sources of ice nuclei in mixed phase clouds over the Caribbean. It has been documented that long range transported African dust can influence clouds and precipitation in the Caribbean region. PRADACS, performed on the ground at Pico Estes, was performed in collaboration with Prof. Olga Mayol-Bracero and her research group at the University of Puerto Rico.
4) Metal-organic framework (MOF) characterization study (funded by NSF in collaboration with Prof. Seth Cohen): The Prather group in this project uses on-line mass spectrometry to characterize the composition of MOFs produced by the Cohen lab. A great deal has been learned in these early studies about the propensity for ligands to switch between MOF particles inspiring the term post synthetic ligand exchange (PSE). Using PSE, the efficiency of gas adsorption can be increased for certain gases such as CO2 by a significant amount.
5) On-line detection of early stage cancer in single cells (funded as an SBIR grant by the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with Nanocomposix, a local company): On-line MALDI uses fabricated nanoparticles to differentiate between cancer and non-cancerous cells at the individual cell level for the first time. The mass spectral signatures of cancer cells are clearly distinct from the non-cancerous cells. This project has involved adapting the ATOFMS with a new inlet to detect larger cells/particles (up to 10 microns).
6) The Prather ground designs and builds instruments in their in-house machine shop. Current instrumentation projects for aerosol studies include: refinement of a chemical ionization-based instrument for the selective characterization of organic species in atmospheric aerosols. Also, a new project commencing in 2014 will involve building a second aircraft-ATOFMS which can obtain coupled fluorescence and mass spectra from the same individual particle in real-time. This instrument will be used to characterize aerosols in clouds, air, and precipitation samples in an effort to quantify the fraction of bioparticles in the atmosphere and environment.
7) Education and outreach to reinvigorate science education and inform the public of recent development in climate and air pollution research. Collaborations began with local schools including Paul Ecke Central and Castle Park High School. Our major education and outreach partner is the Scripps Birch Aquarium which currently houses the Feeling the Heat climate exhibit. We are currently adding more school partners as Phase II expands--please contact us if you are interested!