ARB Research Seminar

This page updated June 19, 2013

Secondary Organic Aerosols: Formation and Thermodynamics

John H. Seinfeld, Louis E. Nohl Professor, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Engineering and Applied Science, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

November 12, 2002
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA

Research Project


A variety of volatile organic compounds, upon oxidation, yield products that have sufficiently low volatility to condense into the aerosol phase. These products constitute what is known as Secondary Organic Aerosol (SOA). SOA has been shown to comprise a significant fraction of the organic aerosol in California's South Coast Air Basin and Central Valley. The amount of aerosol that can be produced from a given hydrocarbon depends on the structure and reactivity of the hydrocarbon itself, the thermodynamic properties of its products, the nature of the particles into which it is being absorbed, and ambient conditions (temperature and relative humidity). This lecture will describe the formation process, how it is studied in the laboratory, and how the thermodynamics of gas-particle partitioning govern the quantity of aerosol formed in the atmosphere.

Speaker Biography

John H. Seinfeld is the Louis E. Nohl Professor in the Divisions of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Engineering and Applied Science at the California Institute of Technology. He is a graduate of the University of Rochester where he received a B.S. degree in chemical engineering, and of Princeton University where he received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1967. In 1967, he joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology. Professor Seinfeld is widely acknowledged for his research on the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere. Through both experimental and theoretical studies, he has made numerous contributions to our knowledge of the chemistry of the urban atmosphere, the formation, growth, and dynamics of atmospheric aerosols, and the role of aerosols in climate. He is considered one of the founders of the field of mathematical modeling of the atmosphere, work that eventually became written into the United States Clean Air Act. Professor Seinfeld has received numerous honors and awards. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the 1970 Donald P. Eckman Award of the American Automatic Control Council, a 1972 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Grant, the American Society for Engineering Education's Curtis W. McGraw Award (1976) and George Westinghouse Award (1987), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Allan P. Colburn Award (1976), Institute Lectureship (1980), William H. Walker Award (1986), and Warren K. Lewis Award (2000). He received the 1980 NASA Public Service Award and a Special Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation. He is the recipient of the 1993 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology and the 2001 Nevada Medal. Professor Seinfeld received the Fuchs Award of the International Aerosol Research Assembly in 1998, an award given every four years and considered the highest honor bestowed for work in the field of aerosol science. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was President of the American Association for Aerosol Research. He has received the University of Rochester's Distinguished Alumnus Award. He was chairman of the NASA Working Group on Scientific Research Objectives in Tropospheric Pollution and served on the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and the NASA Advisory Council. He was chairman of the National Research Council Committee on Tropospheric Ozone Formation and Measurement and of the NRC Panel on Aerosol Radiative Forcing and Climate. He is currently Vice Chair of the NRC Committee on Atmospheric Chemistry. Professor Seinfeld is the author of more than 400 scientific papers and several books, including Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change (1998). He is the recipient of honorary doctorates from the University of Patras (Greece) and Carnegie Mellon University.

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