Benjamin Henry II ’22

Headshot of Benjamin Henry

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project Title

Mineral-Water-Organic Interactions in Soils

I worked to understand and quantify the interaction between black carbon (BC) and water in the atmosphere. When present in precipitation, BC makes snow and ice darker, which causes melting and a lower global albedo — or reflection of solar radiation back into space — that can increase global temperatures. Not much is known about the direct radiative forcing of BC, but its effect on precipitation and ice depends on how hydrophilic or hydrophobic it becomes after aging via oxidation or being coated by sulfates and organics. Our work used molecular dynamics simulations to manually oxidize pure carbon structures — in this case carbon nanotubes — and calculate their resulting contact angles with water to quantify hydrophilic/hydrophobic effects. Utilizing MATLAB, Large-scale Atomic/Molecular Massively Parallel Simulator (LAMMPS) and Visual Molecular Dynamics (VMD), I developed and executed scripts that simulated my carbon structures and analyzed their interactions with water via contact angles. Through this internship, I developed a stronger desire to better understand the microphysics of the atmosphere and resulting effects on climate, and I plan to pursue similar work in the future.

Internship Year


Project Category

Water and the Environment


Interfacial Water Group, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University


Ian Bourg, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the High Meadows Environmental Institute; Xiaohan Li, Ph.D. candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering