Pictures above show the latest version of our aerosol system. As you can see, space is starting to get a little tight in the lab, but we are excited about all the new features. The past few months have been full of updates and upgrades for the aerosol chambers. In terms of the little things, new monitors and computers have made it so we no longer have to look through the setup to read pressures and valves. Additionally, having computer control directly in front of the chamber minimizes how often we have to run between stations (something us college kids appreciate during early morning research hours). Another new tool (not pictured) was a mini scaffolding assembly. This has been a useful addition as it has enabled us to reach the upper portions of the chamber more easily while also offering a very stable work surface and allowing us to fit around all of the materials on the ground. Plus, it’s way easier to deal with than ladders and stepstools.
The most exciting update to the system has been our new cryo capabilities. We are now able to get our chamber as low as -65 degrees Celsius with a water/methanol cooling bath. However, we quickly learned that the addition of cold bath affected more than just our chamber. A subsequent increase in the room’s humidity led us to install a dehumidifier, which pumps the water it pulls out of the air straight back into our water reservoir. The addition of cryo capabilities came with additional challenges, such as keeping the cooling bath the correct temperature and running the chamber for select hours rather than continuously. Later in the semester, Dr. Sebree obtained a Brinkmann cooler, which allowed us to reach and consistently maintain a temperature of -40 degrees Celsius.
--Courtney Massey and Katie Plotzke
The fog project has gone slow but secure. Over the past year we had three significant fog collections which we analyzed to study the NH3 concentrations in Iowa’s atmosphere. The air quality project suggested an increased basicity in the fog samples collected here in the Cedar Valley area which is expected due to the use of nitrates in agriculture across Iowa. However, we do not know the exact concentrations yet given that they are below the limits to detection of our instruments. We have purchased a Thermo Model 17i NO-NO2-NH3 analyzer that will be used for future measurements and will allow us to detect the lower NH3 concentrations. So far, the amounts of NH3 found in the atmosphere in the Cedar Valley area are way below the safe limits which suggest a really good air quality in the area. However, we will continue to study the NH3 concentrations in the atmosphere given that increased [NH3] is predicted to have an effect over the scavenged newly formed species. For now, after the fog collection, aerosol collection, ammonia analysis, pH measurements, total organic carbon measurements, ion chromatography, and major ion analysis performed, all is left is to wait for new foggy days to collect more samples!
When the progress of this project was presented in the IAS conference, there were a lot of interested people asking about the progress of the fog and atmospheric research part of the BETA project. I was surprised by the amount of people that were approaching to ask me questions (and ended taking pictures of the weebly website to check our progress). In many occasions, I ended up explaining specifics about the three sub projects and showing interested people the website in my tablet. By the end of the poster session my voice was almost gone and I needed some quiet time to rest my voice. The next day of the conference I also had a couple of people asking me questions about BETA since, according to them, the three times they came around to ask questions there was a crowd around me. Overall, it was a very good experience to share the progress of the BETA team in this state conference. I had a lot of fun and the two hours of the poster session seemed like 15 min!
On Friday, March 24th, Claire, Dr. Sebree, along with other UNI students headed to Ames, IA (Iowa State University) to the ISGC Research Awards Ceremony where Claire presented during the poster session.
"For the BETA team, presenting at the Iowa Space Grant Consortium hosted at Iowa State was a big opportunity. I had the chance to share our research with the people who fund the project, and was happy with the outcome." -Claire
One special bonus came from Claire receiving a gold medal on behalf of the BETA Project's hard work!
"Out of all students from UNI who attended the event, the BETA poster was the only one that won a gold medal." -Claire
Claire after receiving the gold medal
The research BETA has been doing for the past two years was well-received, and, while the team isn't doing this research just for gold medals, it is very cool to have received that kind of recognition from the Iowa Space Grant Consortium!
Claire with the BETA Poster
To wrap up the experience, Claire put it best!
"It was a fun event as well, with lots of interesting presentations and posters throughout the program. Seeing a variety of research subjects which were all funded by the program was great reminder to how much information there is yet to learn about the world and the things in it. Hopefully next year’s conference will go equally as well!" -Claire
On this page we'll post updates of the BETA Project's progress- stay tuned!