Research

Chemistry's Guzman to Study Atmospheric Reactions of Pollution

photo of city with air pollution
Marcelo Guzman's NSF-funded project will focus on how gases, such as ozone, react with pollutants in the atmosphere. The research may help reduce air pollution levels and consequently, human cardiovascular diseases.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 13, 2019) — University of Kentucky Chemistry Professor Marcelo Guzman has received a prestigious three-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research, education and outreach efforts in the field of environmental and atmospheric chemistry.

The $461,000 project, titled "Heterogeneous Aging Mechanisms of Combustion and Biomass Burning Emissions," will focus on how gases, such as ozone, react with pollutants emitted from power plants and forest fires.

"My work with environmental chemistry focuses on the interaction of gases with organic compounds present in low water activity environments such as the atmospheric aerosol, clouds and fog," Guzman said. "Both types of emissions cause tiny particles to be suspended in air. These particles play a major role in visibility and air quality. This new project will investigate oxidation reactions occurring on the surface of particles because chemical reactions on the surface can further increase or decrease visibility and air quality."

Guzman and his students will study how these pollutants are transformed on surfaces by oxidizing atmospheric gases.

"Severe haze events occur in many places in the world facilitated by the interaction between anthropogenic emissions and atmospheric processes with a direct impact on human health,” Guzman said. “In this work, we aim to identify previously unknown harmful chemicals that should be removed from air by investigating at the molecular level the evolution of surface reactions. This knowledge will not only be a great asset for further reduction of air pollution levels but also for saving lives of people that suffer from cardiovascular diseases.”

In addition, the grant will support interdisciplinary training in atmospheric chemistry, environmental science and engineering for graduate and undergraduate students at UK, including research assistantships for four chemistry graduate students. The project will also contribute to the education of high school students in Fayette County interested in careers in science and engineering.

The project is co-funded by NSF’s Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Chemical Science Programs.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,”  and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.