Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How detergent of the atmosphere is regenerated

Date:
October 6, 2013
Source:
Forschungszentrum Juelich
Summary:
It sounds unlikely: a washing machine recycles used detergent in order to use it again for the next load of dirty washing. But this is just what happens during the degradation of pollutants in the atmosphere.

The large atmosphere simulation chamber SAPHIR provides a platform for reproducible studies of well-defined atmospheric-chemical mechanisms.
Credit: Forschungszentrum Jülich

It sounds unlikely: a washing machine recycles used detergent in order to use it again for the next load of dirty washing. But this is just what happens during the degradation of pollutants in the atmosphere. Jülich scientists have now been able to demonstrate this for the first time for isoprene, the most important natural hydrocarbon. Hydroxyl (OH) radicals -- known as the detergent of the atmosphere -- decompose isoprene in the air. This leads to the creation of new OH radicals, which are then able to purify the air of other pollutants and trace gases. The scientific community had previously only been able to speculate about this mechanism. The new findings have now been published in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.

The atmosphere has an astonishing ability to cleanse itself. Chemical processes ensure that trace gases and pollutants are removed from the atmosphere -- such as isoprene, which is largely produced by forests. Without these processes global warming would be even more severe and , air quality much poorer. Just a few years ago, scientists thought that the degradation of isoprene considerably reduced the concentration of OH radicals. During studies in China, troposphere researchers from Jülich's Institute of Energy and Climate Research simultaneously determined high concentrations of both OH radicals and trace gases such as isoprene. Other research groups made similar observations in the air above North American forests and tropical rainforests. The obvious conclusion was that during isoprene degradation something happens to regenerate the OH radicals. "In the past few years, there has been an intensive discussion in the scientific community about what this mechanism could be. But without actual proof this remained pure speculation. Now we have succeeded in demonstrating this process," says the Jülich troposphere researcher, Dr. Hendrik Fuchs.

The scientists recreated the natural conditions prevailing in the atmosphere above China and the tropical rainforests in the Jülich simulation chamber, SAPHIR. This chamber enables researchers to simulate the degradation of even slight quantities of trace gases. It is equipped with exactly the same measuring instruments as are used in field experiments. "It is only this particular combination that makes it possible to study the processes precisely. SAPHIR means that we enjoy unique conditions here at Jülich," says head of institute Prof. Andreas Wahner. Jülich scientists were indeed able to confirm the basic principles of this mechanism and to quantify its impact on OH regeneration. The process takes place much faster than thought before, but not so effectively as some researchers had assumed.

Since the degradation process is now understood for isoprene, scientists can begin to quantitatively investigate feedback effects. Relations between self-cleansing processes in the atmosphere and the climate are particularly interesting for the Jülich researchers. More OH radicals in the air mean that more greenhouse gases such as methane can be degraded. Furthermore, in contrast to all other known mechanisms for the degradation of isoprene, less climate-damaging ozone is produced in the atmosphere than previously assumed. Moreover, the effectiveness of the process increases with air temperature. "We may possibly have identified an important interaction between air quality and climate change leading to the accelerated degradation of trace gases in an atmosphere that is heating up," adds the deputy head of institute Dr. Andreas Hofzumahaus.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Forschungszentrum Juelich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H. Fuchs, A. Hofzumahaus, F. Rohrer, B. Bohn, T. Brauers, H-P. Dorn, R. Häseler, F. Holland, M. Kaminski, X. Li, K. Lu, S. Nehr, R. Tillmann, R. Wegener, A. Wahner. Experimental evidence for efficient hydroxyl radical regeneration in isoprene oxidation. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1964

Cite This Page:

Forschungszentrum Juelich. "How detergent of the atmosphere is regenerated." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131006142315.htm>.
Forschungszentrum Juelich. (2013, October 6). How detergent of the atmosphere is regenerated. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131006142315.htm
Forschungszentrum Juelich. "How detergent of the atmosphere is regenerated." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131006142315.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — With Pacific ocean water already showing signs of warming, the NOAA says there's about a 66 percent chance the event will begin before November. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
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