NERC GW4+ DTP PhD Studentship: Optical Properties of Atmospheric Secondary Organic Aerosol

University of Bristol - Faculty of Science - School of Chemistry

The project:

Aerosol particles and cloud droplets play a significant role in determining the radiative balance of the atmosphere, representing the largest uncertainty in current predictions of climate change. By scattering and absorbing sunlight and terrestrial radiation, aerosols and clouds directly influence the solar flux penetrating through the atmosphere and the radiative loss of heat (infrared light) into space. However, there are very few measurements that provide information on the wavelength dependence of the optical properties of aerosol or the dependence on relative humidity and, thus, the liquid water content of the aerosol. These are essential to reduce uncertainties in quantifying the impact of aerosols on climate.

More specifically, organic compounds account for up to 70% of the atmospheric aerosol mass. Organic aerosol can be either emitted directly into the atmosphere as primary particles or form as a result of the oxidation of volatile organic species to form secondary organic aerosol (SOA). SOA can be composed of either non-absorbing compounds forming aerosols that scatter radiation, or light absorbing compounds referred to as brown carbon (BrC). The relative contributions of light absorption by BrC aerosols and black carbon aerosol (BC, primary aerosols from combustion) are poorly understood, principally because the optical properties of BrC and BC are poorly constrained.

We have recently developed a new instrument capable of measuring the optical cross-section of an individual particle and, thus, the complex refractive index with variation in relative humidity and wavelength. The goal of this project will be to reduce the uncertainties in the optical properties of BrC and BC aerosol and, thus, the uncertainties in their climate forcing. First, we will investigate the optical properties and hygroscopic growth of non-absorbing SOA that scatter light. Then, we will investigate the complex refractive indices and hygroscopic growth of BrC SOA. This project is co-funded by an industrial CASE partner and, in a final strand, we will investigate the coupling of these new tools with existing commercial instrumentation.

How to apply:

Please make an online application for this project at Please select NERC Great Western Four Plus Doctoral Training Partnership PhD on the Programme Choice page and enter details of the studentship when prompted in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.

Candidate requirements: a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK. Applicants with a minimum Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

Funding: The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes. A few fully funded studentships across the DTP are available for EU/EEA applicants not ordinarily resident in the UK (please note that this may be subject to change pending post EU referendum discussions). Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

Contacts: Prof. Jonathan Reid, Contact number: 0117 331 7388.

The University of Bristol is committed to equality and we value the diversity of our staff and students.

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South West England