Carnegie Mellon Researchers Discover New, Rapid Mechanism for Atmospheric Particle Formation


Carnegie Mellon University researchers working with an international team of scientists have discovered a previously unknown mechanism that allows atmospheric particles to very rapidly form under certain conditions.

The research, which was published in the journal Nature, could aid efforts to model climate change and reduce particle pollution in cities.

"The only real uncertainties in our understanding of climate in the atmosphere have to do with fine particles and clouds, how these have changed over time and how they will respond to climate change," said Neil Donahue, Thomas Lord University Professor of Chemistry and a professor in the departments of Chemical Engineering, and Engineering and Public Policy.

The number of particles in the atmosphere at any given time can have major effects locally and globally, including contributing to unhealthy smog in cities and influencing the Earth's climate. However, particles need to reach a certain size — around 100 nanometers in diameter — to contribute to those effects, Donahue noted.

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