A new study involving the University of Colorado at Boulder shows that invisible, reactive gases hovering over Earth's surface, not direct emissions of particulates, form the bulk of organic haze in both urban and rural areas around the world.
Many science and health professionals have believed sources that spew soot and other tiny particles directly into the air were the primary culprit in the formation of organic haze. But a new study by researchers at CU-Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences show aerosols formed chemically in the air account for about two-thirds of the total organic haze in urban areas and more than 90 percent of organic haze in rural areas.
The study was led by Qi Zhang, a former CIRES scientist now at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at State University of New York, Albany and CIRES researcher Jose-Luis Jimenez. The study was published in the July 7 online issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
The scientists compared concentrations of directly emitted, or primary, aerosols with chemically formed, or secondary aerosols. They surveyed urban areas, areas downwind of urban areas and rural areas from 37 sites in 11 countries.
"What we're seeing is that concentrations of secondary organic aerosols decrease little downwind from urban areas," said Jimenez, also an assistant professor in CU-Boulder's chemistry and biochemistry department. "That tells us there has to be an extended source or continuous formation for the pollution."
The scientists believe the extended source of particle pollution is reactive, colorless gases called Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, the same gases that form smog. Jimenez said he believes VOCs emitted in urban and regional areas immediately begin undergoing a chemical transformation that causes them to stick to particles and increase such pollution.
"We think the gases react over a few days as the air travels downwind into more rural regions, producing more organic haze," he said.
Reactive gases are a diverse group of chemical compounds that include VOCs, surface ozone, nitrogen compounds and sulfur dioxide. All play a major role in the chemistry of the atmosphere and as such are heavily involved in interrelations between atmospheric chemistry and climate.
VOCs are released by cars and trucks, gasoline evaporation that occurs during gas station fill-ups, and some industrial processes, said Zhang. VOCs also are produced naturally by vegetation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not currently regulate VOCs except for on-road vehicles and industrial settings, said Jimenez.
Jimenez and Zhang are working to better understand the relative importance of natural and human sources of VOCs in the production of secondary organic aerosol pollution, including which human sources significantly contribute to the problem.
"One question is whether we could improve air quality if we directly targeted VOC emissions and not just particle emissions," said Zhang. "Until we understand the breakdown between human-caused and natural VOC emissions, and between different human sources, we won't have an answer to that question."
Jose-Luis Jimenez | EurekAlert!
Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute
Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences