Nilton Renno


Co-Investigator, Planetary Boundary Layer, Water Cycle,
University of Michigan


Nilton Rennon

Nilton Renno graduated from the University of Campinas (Brazil) in engineering. After working in industry and a government laboratory for a few years he continued his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating with a PhD in atmospheric sciences in 1992. Nilton Renno joined the University of Michigan Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences as Associate Professor in the fall of 2002. Before joining the University of Michigan Professor Renno held positions at the University of Arizona, California Institute of Technology, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Renno's long-term goal is to further our understanding of atmospheric convection and climate while inspiring and educating future generations of scientists and engineers. In particular, he seeks to understand the physical processes that control the climate of the earth and other planets, such as the transport of aerosols, and water vapor. Nilton Renno is accomplishing this goal by continuing his established research programs in atmospheric science while pursuing two additional areas of growing interest, comparative planetary sciences and instrument development. His established and new research programs mutually benefit from each other. For example, they have allowed him to study the role of convective vortices in aerosol transport in both the terrestrial and Martian atmospheres while developing instruments to make atmospheric measurements in both planets. These studies of aerosol transport under two extremely different parameter regimes are excellent for testing models and theories.

Recently, Renno and his collaborators found evidence of large electric fields and non-thermal microwave emission by Martian dust devils and dust storms (Renno et al. 2003). They also showed that convective plumes and vortices play a very important role in the Earth's aerosol budget (Renno et al. 2004, Koch and Renno 2004). Indeed, graduate student Jacquelin Koch recently showed that convective plumes and vortices are responsible for more than 20% of the terrestrial aerosol budget. In addition, Renno and his collaborators have been studying the electrification of terrestrial and Martian dust devils and storms and their effects on dust lifting and atmospheric chemistry. They have already shown that, on Mars dust electrification leads to the formation of large quantities of H2O2, a powerful oxidant. This has important implications for the chemistry of the martian soil and perhaps even to its hydrological cycle.

Concurrently, Professor Renno has been developing a new area of research, the design and fabrication of instruments for atmospheric measurements on Earth and other planets, which fits well with his established research program. Renno is developing these instruments in partnership with NASA centers and private industry. The success of this research activity led to an invitation from Aerospace Corporation to collaborate with them, JPL and Axiomatic Design Corporation on a project called "Campaign Methodology for Exploration-Driven System-of-Systems Architectures". Their goal is to develop, demonstrate, and deliver concepts for common infrastructure building blocks for robotic outpost architectures for Moon and Mars exploration. Renno's role is to develop a concept exploration element toolkit with University of Michigan engineers and students (undergraduate and graduate).

At the University of Michigan Professor Renno also became interested in the College of Engineering Design Curriculum and started to develop a multidisciplinary engineering design course with Associate Dean Levi Thompson and a few other colleagues. Professor Robert Dennis and him developed and co-taught ENG 450, Multidisciplinary Engineering Design in the winter of 2004. Renno obtained external funding for this course and arranged for engineers from NASA/JPL to give guest lectures. In addition, he organized an end-of-term celebration to showcase the student's projects to their sponsors. Both the course and the celebration were very successful and Renno plans to repeat them every year (see AIAA article by Renno et al. 2004). Ford, General Motors, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have expressed interest in supporting ENG 450 and mentoring student teams.

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