Hole helps analyze atmosphere

Azka Khan

On the third floor of Williams Hall there is a window with a hole in it.

It’s not there by accident.

Shanhu Lee, assistant professor in the chemistry department, is using the hole to conduct research on the atmosphere in Kent.

“The air here is so interesting to study,” Lee said. “It is a remote area that is center to big cities like Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown.”

Lee said the hole in the window pumps in air to be analyzed and classified.

“We are looking for a particular particle in the air,” Lee said. “The aerosol particle is an extremely small particle that causes lung problems when inhaled.”

The aerosol particle is found in air pollution, such as emissions from factories and vehicles.

“We really want to study the effects of this particle such as how far it travels from the city and what its impact is when it gets to Kent,” Lee said.

She said research proves the particle gets larger as it travels because it combines with other particles.

Even as the particle gets bigger, it remains extremely small when compared to other particles.

“Since it is so small, it travels through the lungs faster,” Lee said. “This actually makes it more harmful to humans because large particles are filtered through the nose and throat.”

Lee said the size of the particle allows it to pass through the nose and throat and settle in the lungs. Once the particle is in the lungs it can obstruct inhalation and lead to health problems such as asthma.

Lee has been analyzing the data since November 2005.

“At first the university was not really happy about putting the hole in the window,” Lee said. “They usually prohibit anything like this because it can affect the temperature inside the building.”

She said the university was accommodating when it found out the hole was for research purposes. But that didn’t stop faculty and students from gawking at the hole when walking into Lee’s office.

“For a while, everyone was coming in here and saying ‘Is that a hole in your window?'” Lee said.

Lee is the first faculty member to research the atmosphere at Kent State.

“Many states, like California, are big on studying the air and the particles in the air,” she said. “In Ohio it is not a priority, and that is one of the reasons we are living and breathing in very dirty air.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Azka Khan at [email protected].