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Research Core 2

Nano-enabled Sensing for Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Cycling in Soil

The design, fabrication, and testing of nano-enabled sensors for the detection of greenhouse gases and carbon cycling in soil will be the goals of this research direction, with the aim of in situ tracking of changes in concentrations of relevant species, with higher spatial and temporal resolution than what is achievable using conventional approaches. Developments in this research direction will yield tools that will help us better understand critical phenomena such as climate change.

Detection of Greenhouse Gases

This project will create nano-enabled sensors for improved detection of concentrations and emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4). Concentrations within, and emissions from, natural and agricultural ecosystems vary greatly in time and space and are challenging to quantify using existing approaches. While low-cost CO2 sensors are available with suitable sensitivity (~ ppm) and selectivity, CH4 and N2O are present at lower levels (10-100 ppb) and require advanced gas sampling and analysis. Harmon has experience with sensing CO2 gas concentrations and emissions from terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. He will collaborate with Bond and Ghosh for fabrication of nanoscale systems, with the goal of developing nano-enabled sensors capable of greenhouse gas detection at ppb levels.

Nano-enabled Sensors for Carbon Cycling in Soil

One of the most important environmental challenges of our time is stabilizing our changing climate. The soil system can be part of the problem (by releasing excessive CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere) or the solution itself (by drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere to store carbon in slowly cycling pools in the subsurface). In this project, we will refine the development of an infrared-gas-analyzer-based CO2 flux sensor prototype that has been designed by Harmon, and modified by Ghezzehei to allow constant monitoring of CO2 and soil moisture status to determine how climatic variables (in particular, moisture and temperature) regulate CO2 production in a variety of natural soils and soils from working lands across California’s Central Valley. While Harmon and Ghezzehei work on the development of the sensor, Berhe brings needed expertise in the collection and chemical characterization of soils as well as modeling of related transport processes.

Graduate Student Members: Jorge Arteaga (Cohort 1), Zach Malone and Maeve McCormick (Cohort 2)