Does the oxidation of organic material on atmospheric mineral aerosol change the solar radiative forcing of mineral aerosol?


Does the oxidation of organic material on atmospheric mineral aerosol change the solar radiative forcing of mineral aerosol?


Project Description


Professor Martin King (Royal Holloway University of London, Department of Earth Sciences) – Contact me

Professor Dave Waltham (RHUL Earth Sciences)


Project Background

The atmosphere of the Earth is an oxidizing medium and effectively acts as a low temperature, dilute fuel, combustion system, oxidizing complex compounds and returning them to the surface of the Earth via cloud water and dry deposition. The chemical composition of particulate matter affects climate directly, by scattering and absorbing solar radiation, and indirectly, owing to its ability to act as cloud condensation nuclei, leading to a change in cloud formation rainfall patterns. Cloud processing of atmospheric particulate matter changes the optical properties of clouds.

Atmospheric mineral particulate matter contains organic films that affect the reactivity of the particles and their potential to act as cloud condensation nuclei. You will study the optical properties and kinetics of atmospheric oxidants reacting with organic films on mineral aerosol. The kinetics will give an atmospheric lifetime and the optical properties will enable calculation of the change in climatic radiative forcing. If the lifetime is less than ten days and more than 1 minute then it is climatically important.

You will be based at the enviable facilities of the Rutherford-Appleton laboratory (Oxfordshire) and undertake experiments at the central laser facility with supervisors currently working with RHUL students. You will extract organic material from atmospheric aerosol, place it on spheric mineral particles and subject it to atmospheric oxidation whilst held in a laser trap. Neutron reflection studies will determine the morphology and thickness of the organic material, allowing an assessment of its atmospheric lifetime.  Laser tweezer studies will determine the refractive index of the material during oxidation allowing the estimation of a change in radiative forcing due to atmospheric oxidation.

You will train in advanced techniques to study a new interface between mineral matter and water. The Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory will allow you to interact with many world-leading scientists. You will be trained in laser spectroscopy, neutron reflection, chemical extraction, atmospheric sampling and atmospheric modelling achieving a PhD with modelling, field and laboratory components.

Please contact Martin King ( for an informal chat.

Person Specification

Candidates with degrees in Chemistry, Physics, Engineering or Earth Science are encouraged to apply.


  • 1) Shepherd, R., King, M., Ward, A., Marks, A. & Brough, N., “Determination of the refractive index of insoluble organic extracts from atmospheric aerosol over the visible wavelength range using optical tweezers” 2018, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 18, 8, p. 5235-5252
  • 2) Jones, S.H., King, M.D., Ward, A.D., Rennie, A.R., Jones, A., Arnold, T.: “Are organic films from atmospheric aerosol and sea water inert to oxidation by ozone at the air-water interface?” Atmospheric. Environment, 161,274-287, 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2017.04.025
  • 3) S.H.Jones, M.D.King, and A.D. Ward, “Atmospherically relevant core-shell aerosol studied using optical trapping and Mie scattering”, Chemical Communications, 51, p. 4914-4917 doi: 10.1039/C4CC09835H
  • 4) M.D. King, A.R. Rennie, K.C. Thompson, F.N. Fisher, C.C. Dong, R.K. Thomas, C.Pfrang and A.V. Hughes “Oxidation of oleic acid at the air–water interface and its potential effects on cloud critical supersaturations” Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2009, 11, 7699–7707
  • 5) M.D. King, A.R. Rennie, C. Pfrang, A.V. Hughes and K.C. Thompson “Interaction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) with a monolayer of oleic acid at the air–water interface – A simple proxy for atmospheric aerosol”, Atmospheric Environment 2010, 44(14) 1822-1825. (doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2010.01.031)

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2022. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2022.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

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