Yuxuan Wang Receives NSF Grant to Study Beijing's Air Pollution

Three-Year Collaborative Grant Examines Sulfate and Nitrate Aerosol

Dr. Yuxuan Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at University of Houston, and her collaborator, Dr. Becky Alexander of the University of Washington, received a three-year grant of $52,279 from the National Science Foundation. The funding is for the collection of new data to help understand the severe air pollution problem of Beijing, China. The title of their collaborative grant is “Improving our understanding of Chinese haze events by quantifying the formation mechanisms of sulfate and nitrate aerosol in Beijing, China.”

Dr. Yuxuan WangWang and Alexander, along with their team of U.S.-based graduate students and Chinese collaborators, will use new measurements of the oxygen-isotopic compositions of sulfate and nitrate aerosols collected in Beijing to decipher reaction mechanisms responsible for extreme haze events. These measurements will be combined with modeling of the isotopic composition of inorganic aerosols to examine their specific sources.

Scientific outcomes from the project will improve fundamental knowledge of sulfate and nitrate formation in Chinese haze events and aid development of air quality mitigation strategies in China. The project will train graduate students in the U.S. and China and provide them with valuable experience in international collaboration.

Air pollution has many health impacts, such as asthma, decreased lung function, and cardiovascular illness. Small particles in the atmosphere with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (known as PM2.5 or fine particulate matter) are the worst health offenders because they can get deep into the lungs and may even get into the bloodstream.

In this new project, Wang and her team will study the unique atmospheric chemistry of sulfate and nitrate aerosols in Beijing, which are major inorganic components of PM2.5 resulting from coal and vehicle emissions.

While U.S. and European cities have reduced air pollution significantly over the past 50+ years, Chinese cities are currently experiencing all-time high air pollution. Beijing, the Chinese capital, is plagued with severe pollution episodes with PM2.5 levels exceeding several folds of air quality standard. The characteristics of air pollution in Beijing are unique because it is caused by high emissions from large-scale coal burning and motor vehicles simultaneously.