Our mission is to transform our ability to accurately predict the impact of aerosols on climate and environment by bringing real-world chemical complexity into laboratory.

Director’s Message

As Director of the NSF Center for Chemical Innovation, Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE), I would like to welcome you to the CAICE website. Throughout this site, you will find highlights of many of our science, education, and outreach activities. The Center is comprised of scientists ranging from chemists to oceanographers to marine biologists. We are advancing our understanding of fundamental chemical processes as they occur in the real world by developing novel ways to address large scale environmental problems in a controlled setting.

CAICE is addressing environmental challenges involving real-world complexity at the molecular level. We use state-of-the art experimental and theoretical techniques and approaches. Our studies focus on developing and applying the next generation of theoretical and experimental tools for learning about and predicting complex chemical processes on environmental particles at different length and time scales. We are interested in developing a molecular framework for understanding the global impacts and role of particles in the environment. This molecular framework requires detailed knowledge about the fundamental chemistry of these complex systems, and so CAICE team members come from a variety of specialties within the field of chemistry, as well as from other environmental disciplines.

Our current focus is on sea spray aerosol, since oceans cover nearly three-quarters of the Earth and play a vital role in controlling our climate. Sea spray aerosol consists of small particles generated by breaking waves in the ocean. In CAICE, we study particles to understand their impact on the environment, including their effect on climate, weather, and human as well as ecosystem health.

In our experiments, we use an ocean-atmosphere wave flume that we specially developed in CAICE to replicate the broad range of conditions that occur in the real world. Our wave flume gives us the unique ability to probe how biological processes in the ocean influence the environmental impacts of sea spray aerosol because we are now able to replicate the physical, biological, and chemical processes of the full ocean-atmosphere system in a “closed” system.

A current challenge to policymakers is to understand how much pollution sources generated by humans are adversely impacting our planet. CAICE is uniquely poised to address this issue by using our state-of-the-art ocean-atmosphere facility to perform detailed reaction studies of chemical species produced by natural, human, and mixtures. These studies which will begin to address reactions in an increasingly complex array of species that will closely simulate atmospheric mixtures. Such studies will utilize an enclosed chamber over the ocean to study futuristic scenarios such as how increased pollutants including ozone and CO2 will impact the ocean-atmosphere system.

A major goal of CAICE is to train the next generation of scientists to tackle chemically complex global environmental problems while effectively communicating their science to the public. We aim to inform and educate everyone from students to visitors to the general public about our environmental and climate issues. The CAICE educational experience for team members includes being exposed to a broad range of disciplines, from fundamental chemistry to oceanography to marine biology to climate science and more. If you are interested in becoming a member of the CAICE team as an undergraduate, graduate student, or postdoctoral fellow, please contact us and include a current CV as well as a statement of interest.

Prof. Kimberly A. Prather