Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists find way to identify synthetic biofuels in atmosphere

Date:
August 3, 2011
Source:
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Summary:
Chemists have discovered a technique to track urban atmospheric plumes, thanks to a unique isotopic signature found in vehicle emissions.

Scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science discovered a technique to track urban atmospheric plumes thanks to a unique isotopic signature found in vehicle emissions. The team discovered that ethanol mixed in vehicle fuel is not completely burned, and that ethanol released in the engine's exhaust has a higher 13C to 12C ratio when compared to natural emissions from most living plants. In other words, the corn and sugarcane used to make biofuels impart a unique chemical signature that is related to the way these plants photosynthesize their nutrients. Ethanol's unique chemical signature can now be used during aircraft sampling campaigns to identify and track plumes as they drift away from urban areas. The findings were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Air collected and analyzed from downtown Miami and the Everglades National Park and found that 75% of ethanol in Miami's urban air came from manmade biofuels, while the majority of ethanol in the Everglades air was emitted from plants, even though a small quantity of city pollution from a nearby road floats into the park.
Credit: UM/RSMAS

Scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science have discovered a technique to track urban atmospheric plumes thanks to a unique isotopic signature found in vehicle emissions.

Brian Giebel, a Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry graduate student working with Drs. Daniel Riemer and Peter Swart discovered that ethanol mixed in vehicle fuel is not completely burned, and that ethanol released in the engine's exhaust has a higher 13C to 12C ratio when compared to natural emissions from most living plants. In other words, the corn and sugarcane used to make biofuels impart a unique chemical signature that is related to the way these plants photosynthesize their nutrients.

The team suggests that ethanol's unique chemical signature can be used during aircraft sampling campaigns to identify and track plumes as they drift away from urban areas. The results of their efforts, titled "New Insights to the Use of Ethanol in Automotive Fuels: A Stable Isotopic Tracer for Fossil- and Bio-Fuel Combustion Inputs to the Atmosphere" appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Giebel collected and analyzed air from downtown Miami and the Everglades National Park and found that 75% of ethanol in Miami's urban air came from synthetic biofuels, while the majority of ethanol in the Everglades air was emitted from plants, even though a small quantity of city pollution from a nearby road floats into the park.

Air samples from the two locations were subjected to a precise scientific process, first separating the elements using gas chromatography, and then burning each component. The resulting carbon dioxide was put through a mass spectrometer, where the researchers were able to measure the abundance of each carbon isotope.

"According to global emissions estimates, plants release three times as much ethanol as man-made sources," said Giebel. "However, if the amount of ethanol used in our fuel continues to increase, vehicle emissions should eventually exceed natural emissions. This is particularly critical in urban areas because the majority of ethanol in the atmosphere is converted to acetaldehyde, which is highly reactive and considered to be a toxin detrimental to human health."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brian M. Giebel, Peter K. Swart, Daniel D. Riemer. New Insights to the Use of Ethanol in Automotive Fuels: A Stable Isotopic Tracer for Fossil- and Bio-Fuel Combustion Inputs to the Atmosphere. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011; 45 (15): 6661 DOI: 10.1021/es200982t

Cite This Page:

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Scientists find way to identify synthetic biofuels in atmosphere." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110803084121.htm>.
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. (2011, August 3). Scientists find way to identify synthetic biofuels in atmosphere. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110803084121.htm
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Scientists find way to identify synthetic biofuels in atmosphere." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110803084121.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins