University of New Orleans chemistry professor Matthew Tarr has been awarded a 3-year $450,000 National Science Foundation grant to study how sunlight transforms oil on the surface of water.
Tarr and his research team will expose different types of oil to simulated sunlight in order to gain a better understanding of the chemical structures that are formed when petroleum is spilled in water. They will also determine how dispersants affect the make-up of the oil.
“Many previous studies utilized ultraviolet radiation that is not representative of sunlight, and few, if any, studies have recorded findings across oil types or in the presence of dispersants,” Tarr said. “This study will produce important and unique data that are needed to understand the fate and transport of oil spilled in aquatic systems.”
The results of the research will allow scientists to better predict the behavior of oil spilled in water. It will also provide valuable guidance for future response strategies and technologies, according to Tarr.
The project will include an educational component. Undergraduate students will gain important experience while working as part of the research team. High school students and teachers will participate in summer research experiences that will broaden their own perspectives.
Tarr, who joined the UNO faculty in 1995, is a member of the American Chemical Society. He has served as a principal investigator on more than $4 million worth of externally funded grants and worked as key personnel on more than $11 million in sponsored programs. He is the 2015 recipient of the UNO Research Excellence Prize, given to a faculty member who has achieved the rank of associate professor or professor and who has an outstanding and sustained record of creative or scholarly activities.