Scanning electron microscope image of soil dust adhering
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Scanning electron microscope image of soil dust, adhering soot.

May 28, 2010
Scanning electron microscope image of soil dust, with adhering soot. This particle was collected along a highway in Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of a research study being conducted by Arizona State University (ASU) researchers on the flow of air pollution in the Phoenix metro area. Dust kicked up by road traffic creates a large proportion of the particles, while others are the combustion products of gasoline or diesel fuel, sometimes in combination with dust. [One of four related images. See Next Image.]

More about this Image Scientists like Joe Fernando, professor of engineering and director of the environmental fluid dynamics program at ASU study the results of field and laboratory experiments to learn about the composition and flow of pollutants in urban areas. Fieldwork was conducted in both winter and summer because pollution patterns can very according to season.

Fernando is the lead investigator of two interdisciplinary pollution studies in the Phoenix metro area, originally supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The U.S. Department of Energy is providing additional funding for further analysis of the data. The intent of the project is to study the flow of air pollution in cities with what is called "complex terrain," that is terrain with mountains and other irregular features.

The goal of this research is not just to study what's in the air but also to understand and ultimately predict how it moves. The ASU scientists use both laboratory experiments and mathematical modeling to understand the complex flow of pollutants in 3-D over time.

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