Grad students earn top awards for research posters about chemical emissions and air quality

Celia-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Two engineering graduate students from Washington State University received top poster awards at the recent American Association for Aerosol Research annual conference in Portland, Ore.

Courtney Herring, Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, is investigating the chemical composition of diesel and gasoline exhaust mixtures. She conducted engine experiments at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico.

Courtney-250Led by Timothy VanReken, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the researchers are studying the link between health concerns and specific exhaust chemicals. In particular, they are measuring what engine conditions might contribute to or worsen formation of cancer-causing compounds.

Researchers at WSU are involved because of their ability to accurately measure gas and the particle phase of exhaust. The work is part of a project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Celia Faiola, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is looking at how stressors on plants, such as increasing insect attacks in a future warmer climate, might change a plant’s naturally occurring chemical emissions and contribute to worsening air quality.

Plants emit chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These naturally occurring chemicals make up the scent of a pine forest, for instance.

Plant emissions, however, can interact with manmade pollutants to contribute to ozone and particulate pollution and smog. Plant stressors that might happen in a changing environment can alter both the quantity and composition of the chemical compounds that are emitted.

Faiola put plants into a chamber, simulated a particular plant stressor – an increase in insect attacks – and measured changes in VOC emissions and air pollution formation. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, aims to improve understanding of the impact of climate change on air quality.