CU Boulder Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory

University of Colorado Boulder

Boulder, Colorado

The new 8,000 SF Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory is located on two floors of the Cristol Chemistry Building on the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) campus. The overall purpose of this $2.65-million remodel project is to provide customized laboratory spaces to enable researchers to gauge how certain chemicals and pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere are affected by differing levels of sunlight.

Two 25-cubic-meter environmental chambers serve as the centerpiece of the laboratory. In the environmental chambers, researchers can introduce a select combination of chemicals and pollutants to ultra-clean air, which is then exposed to highly controlled lighting, temperature, and humidity levels to simulate real-world conditions. Researchers can then obtain real-time, quantitative measurements of the size, chemical composition, and morphology of submicron aerosols in the simulated atmosphere.

The new laboratory also houses approximately 35 workstations, a combustion source room to allow for the input of precise amounts of specific chemicals into the environmental chambers, mass spectrometers, gas chromatographs, and other related equipment. Office space is conveniently located adjacent to the open lab space for researchers.

Ductwork within the spaces was largely reconfigured, and new specialized HVAC equipment was specified to accommodate the rigorous environmental requirements of the environmental chambers. The existing air handling system was modified from constant-volume to variable-air-volume, and the existing pneumatic controls were replaced with electronic control devices to enhance system control and to reduce energy consumption. RMH utilized computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to further meet precise air temperature and velocity requirements within the environmental chambers.

The RMH Group served as the project’s mechanical/electrical engineer and CFD modeler.