Sandia researchers focus on factors impacting climate change

Lab expects work to benefit geosciences, astrophysics, energy applications

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Combustion Research Facility are developing the understanding necessary to build cleaner combustion technologies that will in turn reduce climate impact.

Their work focuses on the oxidation chemistry of organic carbon species critical to many processes including controlling emissions of toxic combustion byproducts to reduce climate change brought on by humans.

Researchers expect this to work to benefit geosciences, astrophysics and energy applications.

“Soot released from combustion sources is of global concern, as it causes premature deaths, global warming and hydrological changes,” said Sandia researcher Olof Johansson.

“In addition, furans and other large oxygenated hydrocarbons are highly toxic and very frequently observed in combustion emissions," Johansson added.

Their research was published in the July 2016 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a paper titled, “Formation and emission of large furans and oxygenated hydrocarbons from flames."

Oxygenated hydrocarbons are molecules that contain oxygen in addition to carbon, hydrogen and various other elements present during combustion. Many of these molecules are toxic pollutants. The molecules may influence cloud formation and have a significant climate impact if they end up on soot particles released from combustion sources.

Sandia researcher Hope Michelsen said that understanding the mechanisms leading to formation and destruction of hazardous combustion byproducts is the key to controlling their formation and emission.

“Hopefully our work will spark new ideas among our colleagues,” Johansson said. “One important outcome of the present study, which we think may advance the work done at the CRF, is that large oxygenated species need to be considered for the hydrocarbon growth chemistry under many combustion conditions.”

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