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Study Demonstrates Efficiency of PrGO-SN Composite as Ideal Nucleation Materials for Cloud Seeding

The transformation of liquid water into solid ice is a common natural phenomenon, where ice can be formed homogeneously by pure water, or heterogeneously in the presence of foreign materials called Ice Nucleating Particles (INPs). Such INPs can originate from biological, mineralogical, and anthropogenic sources, including pollen and bacteria, volcano ashes, and atmospheric dust. Heterogeneous ice nucleation plays an important role in various areas, such as atmospheric physics, cryopreservation technologies, freeze-drying in biomedical research and the food industry.

However, studies on ice nucleating activities of INPs are mostly limited to theoretical modeling and simulations, mainly due to the challenges in providing the suitable experimental setup, leading to lack of information about the inception of ice nucleation and progression of ice crystal growth.

Professor Linda Zou, a first cycle awardee of UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP) and professor at the Khalifa University, worked on a project involving the design and evaluation of reduced graphene oxide (rGO) and silica dioxide nanoparticles (PrGO-SN) and their practical applications as efficient nucleation materials for cloud seeding.

Prof. Linda and her team synthesized porous composite of 3-dimensional (3D) reduced graphene oxide and silica dioxide nanoparticles using a single-step hydrothermal process.

By observing the ice nucleating on PrGO-SN composites under Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (E-SEM), the team found that the porous composite of PrGOSN demonstrated the initiation of ice nucleation at higher temperature as well as continuous rapid ice crystal growth.

These findings enable further understanding of the factors that affected the heterogeneous ice nucleation process and shed light on the design and fabrication of more efficient functional porous ice nucleation materials for many practical applications such as cloud seeding.

Prof. Linda’s future work will involve the cloud chamber experiment as a means to evaluate the performance of this new material in cold cloud seeding for rainfall enhancement and compare its ice nucleation efficiency with traditional seeding materials.

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