Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Chemistry & Biochemistry


Dr. David De Haan


Sea spray aerosol (SSA) are liquid gaseous particles emitted directly from the ocean, making their way into the atmosphere. It is hypothesized that SSA enters the atmosphere from mechanical processes such as wind and ocean waves. Winds and waves promote bubble formation and these bubbles which make their way onto the ocean surface. After these wave-created bubbles rise to the ocean surface, the bubble ruptures and water evaporates which causes gaseous drops to be released into the air: this is the main source of SSA. SSA matter is known to affect Earth’s climate, by scattering light energy and solar radiation from the surrounding environment. They can also affect global temperature levels because they aid in cloud formation. With Earth’s waters covering about three-fourths of the planet’s surface area, SSA is crucial for managing Earth’s radiation budget. Their important environmental role may be blunted due to an ominous problem: ocean pollution. Microplastics in our oceans affect how and if aerosols form. This study goes into detail of how microplastics affect SSA formation and its implications. This experiment utilizes ocean movement laboratory simulations to measure SSA generation in the presence of various microplastics. The data suggests that larger microplastics have a greater, more significant effect on reducing aerosol production than finer, powdery plastics.