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.

CAICE is a National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation.

The Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE) focuses on improving our understanding of how aerosol particles impact the environment, air quality, and climate. Led by Prof. Kimberly Prather, UC San Diego Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, the Center’s goal is to understand critical details regarding the chemistry of aerosols.

CAICE tackles the grand challenge of elucidating the chemical complexity of atmospheric aerosol particles. One important type of aerosol, sea spray, has tremendous chemical variability depending on ocean chemistry, biology, and physical factors such as waves and wind. CAICE has established a unique ocean-atmosphere facility that can replicate natural sea spray aerosol in a controlled setting.

CAICE has assembled an interdisciplinary team of scientists to accomplish this task: atmospheric, physical, analytical, and organic chemists, along with biological, chemical, and physical oceanographers. In addition to conducting innovative research, we are dedicated to improving the level of science education and public outreach.

Interdisciplinary teams including chemists from all fields, as well as marine and chemical biologists, climate and atmospheric scientists, and oceanographers provide diverse perspectives and approaches to gain fundamental chemical insights into how aerosols form and subsequently react. New theoretical and experimental tools for spatially-resolved analysis will be developed to understand the complex, heterogeneous, and dynamic aspects of aerosol particles at a level that will allow the information to be applied generally to atmospheric aerosols. CAICE’s goal is to understand how the structure, phase, and molecular composition – at the level of the individual aerosol particle – impact the properties and reactivity of sea spray aerosol. This detailed chemical understanding can be used to predict how the chemistry of aerosols influences light absorption and scattering, as well as how they nucleate cloud droplets and ice crystals.

Using computational tools and state-of-the-art instrumentation, including a novel approach with a real-world ‘beaker’ to generate aerosols, CAICE brings together a strong research team to focus on the critical area of aerosol chemistry, one of the largest current gaps in our understanding of climate change. This Center is building the next generation of tools for studying complex chemical processes as well as the fundamental theories to explain these processes.

This highly interdisciplinary Center was recognized for its innovation and focus on a scientific grand challenge through a $20 million award by the National Science Foundation. This allows CAICE scientists, along with other researchers from around the world, to advance our understanding of the factors perturbing atmospheric composition and climate.

CAICE advances a wide range of scientific disciplines, including interfacial chemistry, air quality and atmospheric chemistry, nucleation at interfaces, climate science, multiphase and heterogeneous reaction processes, nanoparticle properties and ocean biogeochemistry. The important benefits for society include: 1) an improved ability to predict regional climate, atmospheric chemistry, and water resources via advanced models that incorporate aerosol impacts on clouds and precipitation processes; and 2) the interdisciplinary training and education of the next generation of scientific leaders who will develop solutions to large-scale environmental problems.

CAICE students acquire solid foundations in fundamental chemistry while addressing problems related to the ocean, atmosphere and climate. All CAICE participants receive training on how to convey their scientific findings to the public effectively. They also learn entrepreneurialism, and play central roles in education and outreach programs. The research is communicated to the public in close collaboration with the Birch Aquarium and other public venues.

The Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment is funded as part of the National Science Foundation’s Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) program.