University of Wollongongs Associate Professor Adam Trevitt from the Laser Chemistry Laboratory has set the trap. Now his team of students will levitate a single droplet for days on end to better understand aerosol chemistry. Prof Trevitt and his team within the faculty of Science Medicine and Health (SMAH) are studying the fundamental chemistry of droplets by developing new experimental platforms that trap and electrodynamically levitate single droplets. The advantage of this strategy is that we can control the size, chemistry and environment of the droplet and then probe the evolving chemistry of this system, Prof Trevitt said. Our laser techniques are crucial to this, as we can detect chemical transformations non-destructively. Because my students are able to trap so effectively, we can levitate a single droplet for days. The current record is 14 days! Being presented the 2017 Michael Guilhaus Research Award by the Australian and New Zealand Society for Mass Spectrometry (ANZSMS) is a bonus for Prof Trevitt. He plans to use the $10,000 award for his innovative research, in particular using mass spectrometry to understand the surface oxidation of lipids, atmospheric aerosol and terpenes. In the context of atmospheric chemistry, understanding the chemistry of aerosol droplets is a real challenge. At the droplet surface, molecules like ozone arrive and can either bounce off or settle onto the surface and become involved in chemical reactions, Prof Trevitt said. It is the interface that mediates the properties of the droplet. Does the droplet grow or shrink? Does is solidify or liquefy? Does it change colour? The chemistry and physics of aerosol affects air quality as well local and global climates but it is notoriously difficult to model and predict. I met Professor Guilhaus at several conferences and although I never worked with him directly, I know his work well, he said. His advancements in the area of orthogonal extraction time-of-flight mass spectrometry are legendary, and this technology is used in many high-resolution mass spectrometers including several at UOW.
Illawarra Mercury, 23 July 2017 ; http://www.illawarramercury.com.au