N.C. A&T Atmospheric Chemistry Researchers Receive $1 Million Grant

EAST GREENSBORO – (Oct. 4, 2018) It is estimated that Africa produces more than half of the world’s biomass burning smoke from biomass fuels and animal dung, where it’s used for cooking and heating homes. Despite Africa and other tropic regions’ high contribution to biomass burning emissions, relatively few studies have  been done on the effects of specific emissions on global health and climate.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University researchers will receive $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the climate and health impacts of biomass smoke, combustion emissions and sub-Saharan Africa and Saharan dust mixed with biomass smoke.

Research will be led by N.C. A&T professor Solomon Bililign, Ph.D., and co-principal investigator Marc Fiddler, Ph.D. The team will look at the optical properties of biomass smoke, as a function of relative humidity and the health implications of the smoke.

“Household pollution from biomass burning contributes to nearly three million premature deaths per year,” Bililign said. “Having a better understanding of what the health impacts of pollution due to biomass burning should help mitigate and improve household burning conditions in the developing world.”

Bililign and his team of undergraduate and graduate researchers will collaborate with Colorado State University in field research and modeling of health impacts and Howard University to collect filter samples on aboard maritime research platforms on NOAA ships on the Atlantic Ocean.

The grant is for three years through 2021.

 The overall goals of the project, “HBCU-Excellence in Research: Radiative Effects of Biomass Burning Aerosols Laboratory and Field Measurements and Modeling of Climate and Health Impacts," are to understand the chemical composition and optical properties of biomass burning aerosols, quantifying and understanding various biomass emissions and emission factors to understand their impact on global climate, air quality and human health.

“Because of this grant’s emphasis on research excellence at HBCUs, this project will directly increase the number of minority students trained in atmospheric science both in field and laboratory research,” Bililign said. 

Bililign and Fiddler previously received NSF funds to build an indoor smog chamber study optical properties of biomass burning emissions as they photochemically change and collaborated with UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Environmental Science and Engineering scientists to conduct chemical analysis of the aerosols obtained from the smog chamber.

This project will also allow A&T faculty and students to be part of a major field campaign to study wildfire emissions in collaboration with NSF’s National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA Aerodyne company and other universities in 2019.