A total of 925 papers were published across the RSC's Environmental Science portfolio in 2022. Dr Skoda collaborated with colleagues from the Universities of Birmingham, Reading and Bath, the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) and Diamond Light Source on a detailed experimental examination of oleic acid and sodium oleate coatings on glass.
Atmospheric aerosol particles can be coated with organic materials, impacting aerosol atmospheric lifetime and urban air quality. Coatings of organic materials are also found on indoor surfaces such as window glass. Oleic acid is a fatty acid surfactant that is abundant in cooking and marine aerosol emissions. The atmospheric lifetime of such materials is affected by the phase state, impacting the climate and urban air quality. Under ambient conditions it can self-assemble into lamellar bilayers (stacks) with its sodium salt.
Dr Skoda and his colleagues combined advanced methods to explore the surface structure of coatings before and after aging by ozone. Using neutron reflectometry on the INTER instrument at ISIS and FIGARO at ILL, they discovered that that the surface structure changes significantly with simulated atmospheric processing. They showed that lamellar bilayers persisted after aging but their absorbance of moisture from the air increased dramatically. Anisotropic diffusion (much more rapid in the plane of the bilayers) is potentially an important barrier to transport both into films and ambient aerosols. The persistence of such semi-solid surfactant arrangements in the atmosphere has implications for the climate as well as urban and indoor air pollution.
The paper, entitled 'The evolution of surface structure during simulated atmospheric ageing of nano-scale coatings of an organic surfactant aerosol proxy' won the Best Paper in the category of Environmental Science: Atmospheres.
The editors selected this paper as it 'provides important insight into how details of molecular structure and emergent morphology may have a strong influence on the environmental persistence of compounds, bridging fundamental physical chemistry and environmental chemistry.' Link to Best Papers from 2022 published in the Environmental Science journals of the Royal Society of Chemistry - Environmental Science: Atmospheres (RSC Publishing).
Dr Skoda enthused, “I am very pleased that the importance of this study has been recognised. It demonstrates very nicely how neutron reflectometry can yield a wealth of structural information at the nanoscale and thus contribute to a deeper understanding of atmospherically relevant processes."
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