Early Air Pollution Research

lemmon.gifScientists in California pioneered air pollution research and UCLA was responsible for building up a fund of knowledge. Before 1955, results from UCLA research in air pollution were drawing public interest in smog and its possible cures.

UCLA scientists at the College of Engineering were among the first to examine the contributory effect of sunlight on smog in the Air Pollution Test Facility, a simulated atmosphere encased in a huge plastic tube-shaped structure on the roof of the Engineering I building. Harry Buchberg designed the rooftop see-through chamber, in which various chemical compounds were injected into the simulated atmosphere to study the changes they underwent when exposed to sunlight. Analysis of the irradiated chemicals revealed the first hint of a process that leads to atmospheric ozone depletion. Albert Bush was among the first to identify smog particles and postulate their role in the photochemical process that underlies the creation of Los Angeles smog. Bush began in 1966 to build a database on worldwide smog, collecting air samples from 25 cities in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti. Walter Karplus and research chemist John Keansley early on compiled data on how ozone is formed from the constituents of car exhaust. Richard Kopa designed a fuel atomizing carburetor that led to cleaner running automobiles, and demonstrated recycling of exhaust gases through the engine to reduce pollutants. Ken Nobe designed, constructed, and tested a two-stage catalytic afterburner, which was designed around a concept for two-stage after burners first developed by Samuel Yuster in 1954.

Other notable contributions in air pollution research accomplished at the School of Engineering included:

  • proved value of vegetation along freeways to diminish effect of automobile
  • pollutants transiting into environment
  • demonstrated air conditioning smog filters
  • quick and economic method for lead detection in plants
  • research on wood alcohol as alternative fuel
  • researched effect of seasonal agricultural burning on atmosphere
  • researched effect of smog on blood’s capacity to carry oxygen
  • researched effect of adequate air supply on urban growth
  • research on freeway intersections as greatest smog producer

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