Atmospheric Chemistry

Department Prof. Dr. Jos Lelieveld

Our research focuses on photo-oxidation mechanisms, which play a central role in the self-cleaning capacity of the atmosphere. We develop highly sensitive instrumentation to measure trace gases, including reactive radicals that occur in minute amounts in ambient air, to uncover the photochemical reaction chains. We have specialized in the construction of new instrumentation for application on aircraft. Fast laser-optical, mass spectrometric and relatively fast gas chromatographic techniques, for example, are used to determine the key oxidants and breakdown products of hydrocarbons. Our studies include laboratory investigations, field measurements on aircraft and ships, and the use of satellite observations. We also develop computer models to simulate the interactions of chemical and meteorological processes, and investigate the impact of atmospheric composition changes on climate and planetary health in the Anthropocene.

Climate Geochemistry

Department Prof. (ETHZ) Dr. Gerald H. Haug

The department addresses climate-ocean-atmosphere processes - from 'geologic' to annual timescales. The climate system has many interacting components and thresholds. Changes in internal feedback loops such as changes in ocean-atmosphere interactions, the oceanic heat transport, the oceanic nutrient reservoir, the nutrient status of the high latitude surface ocean and its effects on atmospheric greenhouse gases amongst many others amplify modest external forcing mechanisms and ultimately alter climate on different timescales. Periods of interest include much of the Cenozoic, the past 65 million years, including the Pliocene thermal maximum some 3 million years ago, which is the youngest geologic analogue of a 400ppm CO2 world – the same amount as today due to anthropogenic activities.

One focus is biogeochemical processes in the polar oceans and their role in regulating atmospheric CO2 concentration between ice ages and warmer periods. To quantify the mechanisms and causes of such major changes in the environmental conditions of the Earth, we use diverse geochemical methods, including light stable isotopes of foraminifera and organic matter, biomarkers, trace metals, and high-resolution non-destructive analytical techniques such as scanning XRF. We pursue diverse archives, including sediments from the open ocean, isolated marine basins, freshwater lakes, and speleothems.
Multiphase Chemistry

Department Prof. Dr. Ulrich Pöschl

Multiphase chemistry deals with chemical reactions, transport processes and transformations between solids, liquids and gases. These processes are important for Earth system science and climate research as well as for life and health sciences.

In Earth system science and climate research, the focus of our department is on studying biological and organic aerosols, aerosol-cloud interactions and atmosphere-surface exchange processes. Concerning life and health sciences, we investigate how protein macromolecules are modified by air pollutants and how this affects allergic reactions and diseases. We try to elucidate the course of multiphase processes at the molecular level and its impact at the macroscopic and global scales. The challenge will be bridging the different spatial and temporal scales: from the tenths of a nanometer to thousands of kilometers and from nanoseconds to years.
Particle Chemistry

Department Prof. Dr. Stephan Borrmann

The Particle Chemistry Department is a joint facility of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Institute for Atmospheric Physics of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. We investigate the physical properties and the chemical composition of atmospheric aerosol and cloud particles. For this purpose we carry out, for example, laboratory experiments in a vertical wind tunnel and measure on soil and hill stations and mobile carriers particular aircrafts. Furthermore, we develop methods to determine aerosols by mass spectrometry. Using isotopic measurements, we analyze extraterrestrial particles such as presolar dust grains from meteorites and comets.

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