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Cal State Fullerton Chemist Studying Acid Rain in China
Fu-Ming Tao
Fu-Ming Tao
$10,000 grant furthers his research on dangerous coal emissions.

June 6, 2007 :: No. 227

Fu-Ming Tao, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Cal State Fullerton, is spending most of the summer researching coal emissions in China, thanks to a $10,000 award from the California State University.

Tao is the recipient of the CSU Wang Family Faculty Award, which helps pay a faculty member’s expenses for academic work and/or research in Taiwan or mainland China.

For the next 2 1/2 months, Tao will be in Shanghai at Jiao Tong University “to work with scientists there on what coal burning is doing to the atmosphere,” said the Brea resident. “Here, at Cal State Fullerton, the research my students and I have been doing is theoretical. There, we can work with the scientists to actually apply it and see the results.”

Tao’s primary area of research is how sulfur oxides, particularly from coal burning, behave and react in the atmosphere and what might be done to reduce or stop the emissions. One of the possibilities being studied, he said, is to see if a certain segment of the sulfur oxides in the coal-fired plants’ exhaust can be made to react with ammonia to form a solid, which would keep it from being emitted into the air. He also studies carbon and nitrogen emissions and emissions of metals, such as mercury.

Sulfur oxides are the prime ingredients in acid rain, he noted. They can combine with water in the atmosphere to form sulphuric acid, which can then fall to the earth with rain or snow, harming vegetation, sickening or killing fish in lakes. Breathing the sulfur oxides can irritate the lungs and cause health problems.

Only 56 percent of the power plants in the U.S. are coal-fired, Tao said, but among all power plants in the nation, the coal-fired plants’ emissions are responsible for 96 percent of the sulfur dioxide pollution, 88 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution, 93 percent of the nitrogen oxide pollution and 99 percent of mercury pollution.

China, with many coal-fired power plants, faces similar problems, and research on the problem there is intense, too.

Tao said he also will spend time at Shanghai’s Fudan University, where in addition to the research, he will discuss exchanges of information between the universities and between China and the United States.

“Dr. Tao is one of the department’s most prolific researchers,” said Maria Linder, chair of Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, where Tao is a faculty member. “He is known around the world for his research and collaborates with many other scientists. This award highlights his dedication and work.”

But, Linder added, “He doesn’t just work with students at Cal State Fullerton and with scientists in other parts of the world. He works with students at Troy High School in Fullerton to help them understand science and research better.” Last month, for the second consecutive year, Troy High School won first place at the national Science Olympiad.


Media Contacts:

Fu-Ming Tao, Chemistry and Biochemistry,
Russ L. Hudson, Public Affairs, 657-278-4007 or

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Fu-Ming Tao
Fu-Ming Tao


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