Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Research Title: Greenhouse Gas Dynamics (GCD)

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 0.2
FY95 0.2
FY96 0.2

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Chemically Induced Changes (100%)
(c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Understanding (100%)

Organizational Component:
Division of Chemistry (CHE)
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
National Science Foundation.
Division of Chemistry
NSF/CHE, Room 1055
4201 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22230

Point of Contact:
Margaret Cavanaugh
Phone: 703-306-1842
E-Mail: mcavanau@nsf.gov

Research Goals:
To understand the interactions of greenhouse gases with light, other atmospheric gases, surfaces, and other relevant substances; and the complex chemical processes, both natural and industrial, that lead to greenhouse gas production and release through the conduct of laboratory based research.

Research Description:
The "Greenhouse Gas Dynamics" (GGD) program supports research needed to understand: (1) the interactions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) with light, other atmospheric gases, surfaces, and other relevant substances; and (2) the complex chemical processes, both natural and industrial, which lead to GHG production and release. In order to carry out the analyses needed to define, model and predict environmentally critical interactions, development of new physical and chemical tools will be required. Adsorption, photochemistry, and bulk reaction between GHGs and other substances, frequently at surfaces or in aerosols or hydrosols, determine their environmental impact on global climate change. Understanding of the component chemical reactions, and thermal and transport processes, will not only promote intelligent use of the gases where that use is essential, but also reveal means whereby alternative, less environmentally destructive substances can be employed. Surface interaction studies can provide new and effective means for selectively removing GHGs from process streams or catalyzing their conversion to innocuous substances. Photochemical studies of greenhouse gases, undertaken because of environmental relevance, have revealed much about the reaction chemistry of isolated gases. The complex, nonlinear interactions of multiple gases and phases, however, are only vaguely understood, despite their clear climatic importance. The combination of mass and thermal transport, photochemistry, and surface chemistry that describes the interactions of GHGs in the atmosphere has only been appreciated recently. Attention will also be given to developing reliable techniques for in situ sensing and quantification of GHGs and on aliquot monitoring in industrial process streams. New methods are needed for economical on-line sensing that would allow more careful monitoring, and permit tighter standards for air quality. Fundamental chemistries underlying passive and active sensor design, allowing selective, specific, sensitive, and rapid determination of the gases requires significant development. For those circumstances where sensors are inappropriate, development of next-generation separations technologies to allow identification and quantification will be supported.

Program Milestones:
- Conduct laboratory studies of chemical processes involving sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and other greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide between 1995 and 1999.
- Refine techniques for determination of composition and phase changes of greenhouse gases and for measuring chemicals in industrial process streams between 1995 and 1999.

Program Interfaces:
Projects supported under the GGD program component are largely laboratory-based, and will complement field observations and studies supported under other Global Change initiatives in Global Tropospheric Chemistry and remote sensing. The GGD program will contribute to both short-and long-term improvement of local and global habitats. The chemical manufacturing and agricultural industries, both major contributors to U.S. exports, would be most immediately affected by the introduction of new methods and criteria for process monitoring. Atmospheric scientists and modelers of global climate change will benefit from high precision baseline data and improved understanding of kinetically coupled GHG reactions in the atmosphere and with suspended particulates.

Policy Payoffs:
The knowledge gained as a result of the program would provide guidance to environmental policymakers in a number of areas in which the complexity of the natural system has obscured the most appropriate action. Solutions to problems with greenhouse gases may lie in the reduction of atmospheric irritants and particulates, some of which may be more important to control than others, and whose effectiveness may vary with temperature and sunlight. Future air quality legislation may be tailored to particular locales and specific industries which, where feasible, might be located at environmentally benign sites.