Innovative cloud research

A brand new type of measuring device is revolutionizing research into weather and the climate.

Then do clouds form and what are they made of? These questions are the focus of work at the Atmospheric Aerosol Research division of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)’s Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research. Its scientists’ principal interest are ice nucleating particles (INPs), which consist of desert dust, for example, and play a key role in the formation of ice in clouds. These tiny particles have a huge impact on weather and the climate because they contribute to the formation of precipitation. However, measuring the types and quantities of INPs in the atmosphere has only ever been possible with very complex methods and for short periods of time.

Now, this has all changed – thanks to the Portable Ice Nucleation Experiment (PINE), a device for measuring aerosols and INPs developed by the KIT research group in collaboration with engineers at Bilfinger Noell GmbH. PINE can be used for both field research, such as at weather stations on mountain peaks, and for laboratory experiments. It gives scientists a way to take continuous measurements wherever they choose, without big commitments in terms of personnel and material resources.

Both KIT and Bilfinger consider PINE anything but a one-off product; in fact, it is to go into production – albeit in small runs – and be sold to other research institutes.

For a high-investment project like PINE, we felt it was important to work with an experienced industry partner whom we know and respect. Bilfinger Noell’s expertise with special devices served us well.

Dr. Ottmar Möhler, Aerosol researcher, KIT

Published in issue 01.2020

Further articles from issue 01.2020