Understanding the formation of atmospheric aerosol is vital, as they help to cool the climate but also cause increased mortality through bad air quality. A key problem in predicting aerosol formation is the huge number of compounds, reactions and processes involved, as well as the complexity of the participating compounds.
The Virtual Laboratory for Molecular Level Atmospheric Transformations is a Centre of Excellence that will combine atmospheric and computer science to construct a virtual laboratory for atmospheric aerosol formation, interactively integrating experimental and theoretical state-of-the art methods from the fields of chemistry, physics and artificial intelligence. This will allow us to tackle many unsolved problems in atmospheric science, for example the reactions responsible for the formation and growth of organic nanoparticles. Outreach-tailored versions of the virtual laboratory will also provide schoolchildren and the general public with insights not only into atmospheric science, but also into the scientific process more generally.