S&T research contributes to Nobel Peace Prize

Posted by
On June 10, 2008

Although former Vice President Al Gore got most of the credit in the media
for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, the award was shared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
A team of researchers from Missouri University of Science and Technology were
integral to the IPCC’s work and this spring the group received official
recognition from the Nobel Committee.

The award was presented for “efforts to build up and disseminate greater
knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the
measures that are needed to counteract such change.” The IPCC was recognized
for its research connecting human activities and global warming. Missouri
S&T researchers from the Center of Excellence for Aerospace Particulate
Research contributed their work with studies and analysis related to aircraft
emissions in the atmosphere.

The Missouri S&T team is led by Dr. Donald Hagen, professor of physics,
and Dr. Phil Whitefield, professor and chair of chemistry. Their research into
the role of aircraft emissions on climate change was featured in chapter seven
of the IPCC report “Aviation and the
Global Atmosphere
,” one of the scientific reports from the IPCC that
contributed to the Nobel Prize. Hagen and Whitefield were two of the chapter’s
lead authors. The report summarized the knowledge of the roll of aircraft
emissions on climate change and made predictions based on that information.

In the mid-1990s, Hagen and Whitefield were invited to join the IPCC and
contribute their research to the panel. For more than a decade, the pair has
been studying particulate emissions produced by aerospace activities, such as
aircraft operations and rocket launches. Their work has led to the development
of an internationally accepted approach to characterize the nature of
particulate matter, or soot, in jet engine and rocket exhaust.

Soot is the most complex of the emittants of a jet engine and the least
understood, Hagen says, despite all the research that has been done in recent
years. “Much is still unknown about its environmental and health impacts,”
Whitefield adds.

The Missouri S&T researchers are examining soot, as well as other
aircraft emittants, to attempt to answer some of these questions.

In relation to climate change, they’re examining what airplanes are doing
that affects the natural balance the earth uses to deal with the sun’s
radiation, Whitefield explains. “That is the energy driving the whole global
climate change issue. We’re dumping all these greenhouse gases into the
atmosphere and they’re upsetting that natural balance.”

“And that’s becoming increasingly interesting to the population as a whole,”
Hagen adds.

Hagen and Whitefield credit their colleagues at Missouri S&T for much of
their recognition.

“One reason we were able to do so much work in this area is because we are
at a university that is a mix of science and engineering,” Hagen says.

“We were able to represent the university on the IPCC, but we drew on
phenomenal support from our colleagues who work with us in this
interdisciplinary center. Missouri S&T is a unique entity to foster that
kind of work.”

In addition to Hagen and Whitefield, Dr. Darryl Alofs, professor of
mechanical and aerospace engineering, Dr. Nuran Ercal, professor of
biochemistry, and Dr. Gary Gadbury, assistant professor of mathematics and
statistics, also work on the project, as well as graduate and undergraduate
student researchers.

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On June 10, 2008. Posted in Research