Hiram College

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jim Kercher has recently had his post-doctoral researched published in “Nature,” a premiere science and medicine journal.

Kercher was part of a team of 12 that wrote “A large atomic chlorine source inferred from mid-continental reactive nitrogen chemistry” which appeared in the March 11 edition of “Nature.”

He explained the research behind the paper:

“Chloride, such as that found in seawater is inert or fairly unreactive,” he said. “In coastal, as waves break some of the seawater is liberated as tiny aerosol particles. These particles contain chloride among other things. At night in these polluted coastal regions, nitrogen oxides (pollution from combustion processes) react on these seawater particles and activate the chloride to a gas phase species, nitryl chloride (ClNO2). Once the sun rises, ClNO2 falls apart (photolyzes) and chlorine radicals are produced. These radicals play a major role in controlling the chemistry of the atmosphere. In addition, this NO2 species is recycled.”

A majority of the data collection and analysis was done while Kercher was doing his post-doctoral work at the University of Washington, with significant modeling and drafting of the paper taking place here at Hiram.

“I went to the University of Washington on a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Fellowship to look at the activation of halogens through nitrogen oxide chemistry,” Kercher said. “My Ph.D. is in physical chemistry, so Joel Thornton, my post doc advisor, really took the time to teach me about atmospheric science. The fellowship is designed to bring scientists from other disciplines into environmental chemistry.”

Kercher, along with his fellow researchers, submitted the article to “Nature” and, after going through a peer review process, it was accepted for publication. The team was notified of the publication by “Nature.”

Kercher is also working to put together a similar experiment together here at Hiram for this fall through early spring, though all of the planning has not been finalized yet.

The abstract of the article can be read online, with the full article available for purchase.

An accompanying “News and Views” article can also be read online.

For more information, read an article from the University of Washington News or a news story from the University of Colorado at Boulder.