Physical Chemistry and our Environment


Although most people think of chemists who make new compounds, there are other chemists who are interested in making physical measurements to draw conclusions about the nature of chemical behavior. These measurements include studies about the rates and likelihood of chemical reactions and the structure and energetic s of molecules. Chemists who do this work are Physical Chemists.

The chemistry of Earthís atmosphere is tremendously complex; it includes the components which exchange into and out of the atmosphere from the seas, humans, other life, and from the rocks and other minerals in the planet itself. Understanding all these processes fully requires field observations, laboratory experiments, and model calculations which take the first two components as inputs in an attempt to accurately simulate the atmosphere as it changes. One of my groupís projects is to investigate the kinetics of reactions which occur at the marine and snow-pack interfaces with the atmosphere, particularly those reactions which are triggered by UV radiation from the sun.

Another interest of mine is the characterization of photocatalytic systems for environmental cleaning. These are compounds which, upon irradiation by light, will break down a potentially dangerous compound to smaller compounds which can be managed by the natural environment. We will study the time resolved evolution of such reactions to assess and improve their efficiency and safety.

Dr. Matthew Nee

Department of Chemistry

Western Kentucky University

Thompson Complex, Central Wing 328



The ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight sets off a complicated network of reactions at the surface of snowpack.† The reaction rates and branching ratios depend on the composition of impurities in the snow, and differ in snow, clouds, and liquid water (wiki commons)