Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


NASA, Purdue study offers recipe for global warming-free industrial materials

Let a bunch of fluorine atoms get together in the molecules of a chemical compound, and they're like a heavy metal band at a chamber music festival. They tend to dominate the proceedings and not always for the better.

That's particularly true where the global warming potential of the chemicals is concerned, says a new study by NASA and Purdue University researchers.

The study offers at least a partial recipe that industrial chemists could use in developing alternatives with less global warming potential than materials commonly used today. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"What we're hoping is that these additional requirements for minimizing global warming will be used by industry as design constraints for making materials that have, perhaps, the most green chemistry," says Joseph Francisco, a Purdue chemistry and earth and atmospheric sciences professor.

The classes of chemicals examined in the study are widely used in air conditioning and the manufacturing of electronics, appliances and carpets. Other uses range from applications as a blood substitute to tracking leaks in natural gas lines.

The chemicals include fluorine atom-containing compounds such as hydro fluorocarbons, per fluorocarbons, hydrofluoroethers, hydrofluoroolefins, and sulfur and nitrogen fluorides.

In a 2009 study, Francisco and NASA collaborators Timothy Lee and Partha Bera examined the molecular qualities that make fluorinated compounds even more powerful warming promoters than chemicals emitted in greater quantities, such as carbon dioxide and methane.

The fluorinated compounds proved to be far more efficient at blocking radiation -- or heat -- in the atmospheric window. The atmospheric window is the frequency range in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum through which radiation from Earth is released into space. This helps cool the planet. When that radiation is trapped instead of being released, a greenhouse effect results, warming the planet.

The new study looked at a broader class of chemicals to identify molecular-level features that make them more or less efficient at trapping radiation in the atmospheric window. The study employed results from atomic-scale quantum chemistry calculations done on computers from NASA and Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), Purdue's central information technology organization.

"We specifically looked at molecules that we felt would have potential for industrial use as replacements for chlorofluorocarbons," says Francisco, whose research focuses on the chemistry of molecules in the atmosphere.

Among other things, the study looked at how the number and placement of electronegative atoms in a molecule's structure affects its radiative efficiency. The number and placement of fluorine atoms proved to be a key factor because they're very electronegative and form highly polar bonds with carbon and sulfur.

Fluorine atoms thus tend to change the bond-polarity of the molecules -- modifying the bonds holding the atoms in the structure. This, in turn, affects how a molecule will absorb infrared radiation that normally passes through Earth's atmosphere and into space.

“The polarity change is what makes for an efficient absorber of infrared radiation,” says Lee, chief of the Space Science and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center.One message from the study: Avoid allowing fluorines to bunch up in a molecular structure. “In other words, don't put them all on one atom,” Francisco says. “Spread them out.”

The fluorinated compounds also persist longer in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide and other major global warming agents, Lee and Francisco note. Even if emitted in lower quantities, fluorine-containing chemicals might have a powerful cumulative effect. Some don't break down for thousands of years.

Writer: Greg Kline, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8167,

Joseph Francisco, 765-494-7851,
Timothy Lee, 650-604-5208,

Greg Kline | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Solid progress in carbon capture

27.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>