Development of a rapid, sensitive and selective detector: Chemical ionization mass spectrometry with switchable electrospray reagent ions interfaced with two-dimensional gas-chromatography
Extremely small concentrations of organic and inorganic molecules in the atmosphere can have a large impact on air quality and climate. Organic molecules emitted mostly by plants, but also by anthropogenic activities, are oxidized in the atmosphere and can form organic aerosol particles. The formation and impacts of these particles are poorly understood – in part, this is due to the analytical challenge of measuring the diverse array of functional groups and isomers of organic molecules that are present in the atmosphere. We have developed chemical ionization techniques coupled to high resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometry to measure a vast suite of oxidized organic molecules. We have applied these measurements to both laboratory and field experiments to better understand the role of human perturbations on the natural atmosphere. Specifically, we have measured the chemistry of diesel exhaust to find previously unknown sources of isocyanic and other organic acids. In the field, we have used these mass spectrometers to investigate the deposition and exchange of organic compounds between forests and the atmosphere. The work is resulting in improved parameterizations of trace gas and particle chemistry, and a better understanding of human impacts on our atmosphere.
Arnold O. Beckman exemplifies the meaning of the word humanitarian. Combined with his unwavering enthusiasm for life, his keen sense of humor and his strong moral and ethical principles, he is a national icon.