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Characterization and Application of a High-Resolution Microfluidic Device in Atmospheric Ice Nucleation Research and Integrated Science Teaching

Active Dates 9/1/2022-2/28/2025
Program Area Atmospheric System Research
Project Description
Characterization and application of a high-resolution microfluidic device in atmospheric ice nucleation research and integrated science teaching

Principal Investigator: N. Hiranuma, West Texas A&M Univ., Dept. of Life, Earth, and Environmental Sciences 

Co-Investigator: S. Bithi, West Texas A&M Univ., College of Engineering 

Co-Investigator: X. Liu, Texas A&M Univ., Dept. of Atmospheric Science 

Atmospheric ice-nucleating particles promote the formation of ice particles in clouds. Ice particles in the atmosphere can subsequently catalyze precipitation formation and deplete clouds, which is especially important in the Arctic, where low-level mixed-phase clouds are prevalent and accelerated warming is occurring. However, little is known about high-latitude ice-nucleating particles, and their role in clouds and the climate system is poorly constrained. This project aims to fill these gaps by conducting pilot laboratory measurements and modeling studies of atmospheric ice nucleation. More specifically, the scientific objectives of the pilot project include (1) updating an affordable ice nucleation measurement technology, (2) verifying its performance with well-characterized Arctic-related samples, and (3) advancing parameterizations of high-latitude ice nucleation and applying them to box model simulations of aerosol particles from the Alaskan Arctic. The research team, led by Hiranuma, will achieve these objectives by examining ice-nucleating particles of known composition and the soil dust samples from surface soil collected in the North Slope of Alaska region. The team hypothesizes that (i) the majority of high-latitude ambient dust ice-nucleating particles are associated with coarse sizes, and (ii) the atmospheric concentrations of these particles are primarily associated with local, wind-driven emissions. To test these hypotheses, we will develop parameterizations from measurements and use the parameterizations to model soil dust’s impacts on the Arctic clouds.

This pilot research project will benefit multiple research and educational entities. The multi-investigator team from West Texas A&M University and partnering institutions will provide hands-on training for science and engineering students. Students will help combine the existing freezing assay systems with other complementary capabilities at the U.S. Department of Energy’s facilities, such as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. Students will also develop modeling skills through collaboration with the Department of Energy’s scientists. Furthermore, the collaboration between experimentalists and modelers will facilitate the development, characterization, and testing of novel instrument technologies and modeling tools. In turn, the tools and technologies developed in this project will be integrated into science teaching, which is imperative for Primarily Undergraduate and Hispanic-Serving Institutions, such as West Texas A&M University. In addition, the team will also discuss the vision for potential long-term partnerships beyond the project period and science topics that benefit all partners through a series of science discussion workshops. This research is aligned with and will advance the mission of the Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research and the Environmental Systems Sciences Division research to build an improved understanding of climate resilience in the Arctic.
Award Recipient(s)
  • West Texas A&M University (PI: Hiranuma, Naruki)