Renyi Zhang

Renyi Zhang

University Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences

Harold J. Haynes Chair in Geosciences

Kinetics and mechanisms of gas-phase and heterogeneous reactions, lab studies of properties of atmospheric aerosols, atmospheric measurements of trace gas species and aerosols, assessment of aerosol-cloud interaction, lightning chemistry

  (979) 845-7656


Our research has covered a wide variety of areas in atmospheric chemistry and physics and, in particular, the impacts of global air pollution on human health, ecosystems, and climate:

(i) Photochemical oxidation of hydrocarbons emitted from anthropogenic and biogenic sources has major implications for local and regional air quality. We conduct laboratory work to investigate the hydrocarbon oxidation reactions initiated by hydroxyl radical OH and other radical species, focussing on the formation of intermediate radicals and their subsequent degradation reactions. In addition, calculations using quantum chemical and kinetic rate theories are performed to study the structures, energetics, and isomeric branching to assess the preferred pathways of the organic radicals. Our objective is to quantitatively understand the kinetics and mechanism of atmospheric volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and their roles in tropospheric ozone and secondary aerosol formation.

(ii) Aerosols in the atmosphere profoundly impact human health, radiative transfer, weather, and climate. We combine experimental and theoretical approaches to investigate nucleation, growth, and transformation of aerosols at the fundamental molecular level. These include elucidation of the formation of thermodynamically stable clusters from molecular complexes and clusters, the growth of stable clusters to nano- and submicrometer-sized particles, and transformation and properties of submicrometer-sized particles. The chemical and physical properties of aerosols are measured to assess their effects on weather, human health, visibility, and climate.

(iii) We develop state-of-the-art instrumentation to measure trace gaseous compounds and aerosols in the atmosphere. Our instruments have been deployed to study multi-phase atmospheric chemical processes in Houston and Mexico City. Most recently, our team participated in air quality studies in Beijing during the 2008 summer Olympic Games (CAREBeijing-08) and in Guangzhou during the field campaign, the Program of Regional Integrated Experiments of Air Quality in the Pearl River Delta (PRIDE-PRD).  

(iv) Air pollutants emitted from anthropogenic and natural sources are transported in the atmosphere while undergoing chemical transformation, affecting human health, agricultural activity, and climate. An understanding of the chemistry and transport of air pollutants is critical for devising strategies to improve urban, rural, and regional air quality. We employ chemical transport models (CTMs) to investigate formation of ozone and particulate matter and air quality on the urban and regional scales. We also investigate aerosol-cloud-climate interaction using cloud-resolving models and mesoscale models. 

Selected Publications

  • Wang, Y. , M. Wang, R. Zhang, S. Ghan, Y. Lin, J. Hu, B. Pan, M. Levy, J. Jiang, M.J. Molina, Assessing the Impacts of Anthropogenic Aerosols on Pacific Storm Track Using A Multi-Scale Global Climate Model, Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, doi/10.1073/pnas.1403364111 (2014).
  • Wang, Y., K.-H. Lee, Y. Lin, M. Levy, and R. Zhang, Distinct effects of anthropogenic aerosols on tropical cyclones, Nature Clim. Change 4, doi:10.1038/nclimate2144 (2014).
  • Wang, Y., R. Zhang, R. Saravanan, Asian pollution climatically modulates mid-latitude cyclones following hierarchical modelling and observational analysis, Nature Commun. 4:3098, doi:10.1038/ncomms4098 (2014).
  • Zhang, R., A.F. Khalizov, L. Wang, M. Hu, X. Wen, Nucleation and growth of nanoparticles in the atmosphere,Chem. Rev112, 1957-2011, DOI: 10.1021/cr2001756 (2012). 
  • Wang, Y., Q. Wan, W. Meng, F. Liao, H. Tan, and R. Zhang, Long-term impacts of aerosols on precipitation and lightning over the Pearl River Delta megacity area in China, Atmos. Chem. Phys11, 12421–12436 (2011).
  • Zhang, R., Getting to the critical nucleus of aerosol formation, Science 328, doi:10.1126/science.1189732, 1366-1367 (2010). 
  • Wang, L., A.F. Khalizov, J. Zheng, W. Xu, V. Lal, Y. Ma, and R. Zhang, Atmospheric nanoparticles formed from heterogeneous reactions of organics, Nature Geosci. 3, doi:10.1038/ngeo778, 238-242 (2010). 
  • Zhang, R., L. Wang, A. F. Khalizov, J. Zhao, J. Zheng, R. L. McGraw, and L. T. Molina, Formation of nanoparticles of blue haze enhanced by anthropogenic pollutionProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 106, DOI:10.1073/pnas.0910125106,17650-17654 (2009).
  • Zhang, R., A.F. Khalizov, J. Pagels, D. Zhang, H. Xue, and P.H. McMurry, Variability in morphology, hygroscopic and optical properties of soot aerosols during internal mixing in the atmosphereProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 10291–10296 (2008).
  • Li, G., Y. Wang, and R. Zhang, Implementation of a two-moment bulk microphysics scheme to the WRF model to investigate aerosol-cloud interaction, J. Geophys. Res113, D15211, doi:10.1029/2007JD009361 (2008).
  • Zhang, R., G. Li, J. Fan, D.L. Wu, and M. J. Molina, Intensification of Pacific storm track linked to Asian pollutionProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104, 5295-5299 (2007).
  • Zhang, R., I. Suh, J. Zhao, D. Zhang, E.C. Fortner, X. Tie, L.T. Molina, and M.J. Molina, Atmospheric new particle formation enhanced by organic acids, Science 304, 1487-1490 (2004).
  • Zhang, R., W. Lei, X. Tie, P. Hess, Industrial emissions cause extreme diurnal urban ozone variabilityProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101, 6346-6350 (2004).
  • Zhao, J., R. Zhang, E.C. Fortner, and S.W. North, Quantification of hydroxycarbonyls from OH-isoprene reactions, J. Am. Chem. Soc126, 2686-2687 (2004).
  • Fortner, E. C., J. Zhao, and R. Zhang, Development of ion drift-chemical ionization mass spectrometry, Anal. Chem. 76, 5436-5440 (2004).
  • Lei, W., R. Zhang, X. Tie, and P. Hess, Chemical characterization of ozone formation in the Houston-Galveston area, J. Geophys. Res109, D12301, doi:10.1029/2003JD004219 (2004).
  • Zhao, J., and R. Zhang, Proton transfer reaction rate constants between hydronium ion (H3O+) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Atmos. Environ38, 2177-2185 (2004).
  • Zhang, R., X. Tie, and D.W. Bond, Impacts of anthropogenic and natural NOx sources over the U.S. on tropospheric chemistryProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA100, 1505-1509 (2003). 
  • Zhang, D., R. Zhang, and S.W. North, Experimental study of NO reaction with hydroxyalkyl peroxy radicals from OH-initiated reaction of isoprene, J. Phys. Chem107, 11013-11019 (2003).
  • Molina, M.J., R. Zhang, P.J. Wooldridge, J.E. Kim, J.R. McMahon, H.Y. Chang, and K.D. Beyer, Physical Chemistry of the H2SO4/HNO3/H2O System: Implications for the Formation of Polar Stratospheric Clouds,Science261, 1418-1423 (1993).


Ph.D., 1993, Atmospheric Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

M.S., 1989, Physics, University of Nevada-Reno

B.S., 1983, Atmospheric Science, Nanjing Institute of Meteorology


Distinguished Achievement Award – Research, Texas A&M University and The Association of Former Students, 2012

Fellow, American Geophysical Uinon, 2012 

Holder of Harold J. Haynes Endowed Chair in Geosciences, Texas A&M University, 2010

Cheung-Kong Distinguished Scholar Award, Ministry of Education - China, 2009

Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in International Research, Texas A&M University, 2009

Outstanding International Collaboration Research Award, China National Science Foundation, 2007

Distinguished Achievement Award for Faculty Research, College of Geosciences, Texas A&M University, 2002

NASA New Investigator Award 1999–2003

Invited speaker in Atmospheric Chemistry Colloquium for Emerging Senior Scientists (ACCESS), Harvard University, 1993

NASA Graduate Fellowship, 1990–1993

Additional Information

  • Collaborative Research: Characterization of Sources and Processes of Primary and Secondary Particulate Matter (PM) and Precursor Gases in the California-Mexico Border Region, NSF, 4/1/2010 – 3/31/3012, PI
  • Aerosol Growth and Chemical Compositions from Heterogeneous Processing of Organic Compounds, NSF, 1/10 – 12/13, PI
  • Generation, Characterization, and Atmospheric Aging of Soot Particles from Diesel Combustion, NSF, 9/2009 – 8/2012, PI
  • On-line chemical analysis of ambient organic aerosols, Texas Air Research Center, 10/1/09 – 9/30/10, co-PI with A. Khalizov
  • Surface-induced Oxidation of Organics in the Troposphere (SOOT), 3/2008 – 12/2009, Texas Environmental Research Consortium/Houston Advanced Research Center, PI
  • Investigation of urban and regional aerosol formation and transformation in China and associated climate effects, 7/2007 – 6/2010, China National Science Foundation, PI
  • Chemical Kinetics and Mechanism of Hydrocarbon Oxidation Reactions, 5/2007 – 4/2010, The Welch Foundation, PI
  • Improving the chemical mechanism of aromatic hydrocarbons in photochemical modeling, 1/1/06 – 12/31/07, Texas Air Research Center (TARC), PI
  • Ground-based Measurements of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Nitrogen Reservoir Species during TexAQS II – 2006, 6/1/06 – 8/31/07, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), PI
  • Laboratory Investigation of Mixing States and Optical and Physical Properties of Soot-Containing Aerosols, 9/1/06 – 8/31/09, DOE National Institute for Climate Change Research (NICCR), PI
  • Ground-Based Measurements of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) using Proton Transfer Reaction - Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS), 5/1/05 – 4/30/06, Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ), PI
  • Aircraft Measurements of Highly Reactive Volatile Organic Compounds Using Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) During TexAQS II, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), 12/01/04 – 8/31/05, PI
  • Demonstration of A New Framework for Studying Aerosol Indirect Effect, NSF, 9/1/04 – 8/31/08, PI
  • Laboratory Investigation of Organic Aerosol formation from Aromatic Hydrocarbons, DOE Atmospheric Chemistry Program (ACP), 1/2001 – 12/2004, PI
  • NOx Production by Lightning and its Impact on the Chemistry of the Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere, NASA, 9/1999 – 8/2002, PI
  • Atmospheric Oxidation Mechanism of Isoprene, 06/2002 – 07/2005, NSF Chemistry-Organic Division, Co-PI with S. W. North


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