There are almost an infinite number of possible experiments that can be conducted to examine the physicochemical properties and reactivity of aerosols, ranging from heterogeneous reaction processes to enzymatic effects on aerosol chemical composition.  

Our goal in the Prather Lab is to not only understand the physicochemical properties, but also to investigate the role that chemistry plays in aerosol production, chemical reactivity, and climate. 

CAICE Projects

As part of the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE), our group is involved in a variety of projects centered on understanding the production and climate impacts of sea spray aerosols. With the invention of the Marine Aerosol Reference Tank (MART), focused lab studies on the chemistry of nascent sea spray aerosols are now possible and currently being pursued. Examples of lab experiments in our lab as part of CAICE:

  • Chemical characterization of sea spray and seawater during phytoplankton bloom mesocosm experiments: identifying chemical and biological changes in seawater that lead to changes in SSA composition
  • Investigation into MarinePArticle Chemistry and Transfer Science (IMPACTS)an enormous collaborative experiment combining the effort of over 50 researchers to understand the chemical, biological, and climate impacts of sea spray
  • Heterogeneous reactivity  with nitric acid and cloud-nucleating ability of lipid-containing aerosols
  • The impact of enzymatic activity on the chemical composition, phase, morphology, and reactivity of sea spray
  • Understanding the surface properties and dynamics of single-surfactant monolayers and bubble interfaces
For more information on CAICE, please visit our website. 

Instrument Development

Instrument development is also an important element of our laboratory-based work. We design novel instrumentation to investigate a wide range of systems, both atmospheric and non-atmospheric. Examples of past and current instrument development:

  • Single-cell metabolomics by ATOFMS
  • Two-step IR-UV Desorption/Ionization
  • Chemical Ionization ATOFMS
  • Sea Surface Microlayer Sampler
  • Automated Ice Spectrometer 

Field Study-inspired Experiments

Part of our goal in the Prather lab is to better understand ambient reaction processes. Thus, results from field studies are used to inform and design specific lab studies that can address field observations.  Examples include:

Applications of Single Particle Mass Spec to Non-atmospheric Systems

The ATOFMS instruments provide a unique ability to perfform on-line laser desorption mass spectrometry with much higher throughput than standard off-line MALDI methods. Taking advantage of these capabilities, our group also performs non-atmospheric measurements of pharmaceutical aerosols (inhalers), petroleum-based particles (various oil and fuel formulations), cigarette smoke, meat cooking, welding fumes, metallic nanoparticles (iron, gold and silver), copy machine emissions, MOFs, and single cancer cells.