The development and application of novel instrumentation to improve our understanding of atmospheric ices, clouds and precipitation.

Dr David O’Connor has been awarded an Irish Research Council Elevate Postdoctoral Fellowship to study at both the Chemistry Department, University of Denver and University College Cork. This prestigious 3-year grant is co-funded by the EU Marie Curie Actions Programme and the Irish Research Council. He will be supervised by Professor Alex Huffman in Denver and by Professor John Sodeau in Cork.

The research itself will involve the development of an entirely new, cheap and robust laser induced fluorescence (LIF) instrument for the detection and characterization of Primary Biological Research Particles (PBAP). Once this task has been completed its integration into a droplet freezing apparatus will be carried out so as to provide a far greater level of characterization for the ice nucleating ability of PBAP to be determined than is currently the case. It will then be deployed back in Ireland at a field site.

The results will be relevant to climate change research because our current knowledge about the composition of airborne ice nuclei distributed on a global basis is poor. For example there are large uncertainties associated with the prediction of any PBAP/ice impacts on important cloud properties, such as precipitation formation or radiative (climate change) forcing potentials.

Project Details

Fellow: Dr David O’Connor
Outgoing host scientist: Professor Alex Hufmann
Return host scientist: Professor John Sodeau
Grant Number: IRC Marie Curie ELEVATEPD/2014/73
Start Date: 1st October 2014
Completion Date: 30th September 2017
Amount of Award: €248811
Activities: The development and deployment of an entirely new, cheap and robust laser induced fluorescence (LIF) instrument for the detection and characterization of Primary Biological Research Particles (PBAP) to assess their ice nucleating abilities.

Scientific Background

Atmospheric aerosol particles are very small pieces of condensed material that can remain airborne for days to weeks at a time. They possess a complex range of physical and chemical properties. Primary biological aerosol particles (PBAP) are a subset of coarse-mode (> 1 µm) particles that are derived directly from biological sources, such as pollen, fungal spores, bacteria or fragments of living cells emitted from marine or terrestrial surfaces. PBAP are therefore broadly important because of their potentially deleterious role in human health, for example as allergens or as infectious agents in the cardio-pulmonary system.

They can also play critical, catalytic roles in atmospheric and biogeochemical reactors, influencing processes such as ice cloud and precipitation formation that can have far-reaching ecological and climate effects. They can also harm crops and livestock all over the world. Despite this multi-faceted importance, relatively little has been known about biological particles in the atmosphere until recently. Currently because of the health and climate change concerns mentioned above there is surging global interest in the capability to rapidly detect and characterize PBAP in both outdoor and indoor environments. 

The Fellow

Dr. David O'Connor

Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry

Lab B1, Kane Building, University College Cork, College Rd, Cork, Ireland