Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How salt in the rainforest becomes clouds

31.08.2012
Potassium salts from fungi and plants initiate the formation of aerosol particles upon which moisture from the air condenses

In the ecosystem of the rainforest, fungi and plants are important contributors to the development of mist and clouds. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have now found out that these release salt particles to which organic molecules attach.


Plant salts in clouds over rainforests: organic compounds condensate at potassium salts out of plants and fungi, so that aerosol particles form. They act as condensation seeds for fog and cloud droplets. How and why plants emit nonvolatile anorganic salts is as of yet unknown.

© C. Pöhlker, MPI for Chemistry

Condensation nuclei are thereby formed, which the moisture of the rainforest condenses on forming water droplets. The discovery was made with the help of a new method using X-rays in which individual particles are microscopically and spectroscopically analysed.

Mist and clouds arise if the air contains fine particulates upon which moisture condenses. In the natural rainforest, mist, clouds and precipitation form from such aerosol particles too.

Until now, it has been assumed that most aerosol particles above the Amazon rainforest only consist of organic material, and are formed through chemical reactions of gas molecules in the atmosphere. Volatile hydrocarbons such as isoprene are released from plants through and consequently transformed through photochemical oxidants into non-volatile organic molecules that adsorb one another, thereby forming aerosol particles.

Organic molecules attach to potassium salt particles

A research team headed by Meinrat O. Andreae and Ulrich Pöschl at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have now discovered that not just organic molecules, but also very fine potassium salt particles participate in the formation of aerosols. These are mainly released from fungi, but also from plants in the rainforest, and serve as condensation nuclei to which the organic molecules can adsorb. Fungi and plants thus have direct influence on the number and properties of aerosol particles in the air and thereby also on the formation and composition of mist, clouds and precipitation in the rainforest.

Christopher Pöhlker succeeded in making the discovery in the course of his doctoral work at the Max Planck Graduate Center with the help of a new aerosol analysis method known as Scanning Transmission X-Ray Microscopy with Near Edge X-Ray Absorption Fine Structure (STXM-NEXAFS). In cooperation with colleagues from Germany, Brazil, India and the US, he used X-ray microscopes at the Synchrotron Light Source of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and the Helmholtz Centre in Berlin, Germany (BESSY II) and was thereby able to detect extremely small amounts of potassium in organic aerosol particles that had been collected using air filters and ultra-thin plates in the Brazilian rainforest north of Manaus.

Where do aresol particles come from and in what quantities?

“We found three kinds of organic aerosol particles and potassium was contained in all of them,” reported Christopher Pöhlker. “In the beginning, we focused on carbon, oxygen and nitrogen contents of the organic materials. But then to our surprise, we found very high potassium levels of up to 20 percent,” added the chemist. Internal structures in the nanometre-to-micrometre-scale particles indicated that multi-phase processes, as they are known, play an important role in the oxidation and condensation of the organic gas molecules, in which various chemical phases such as mist or cloud liquid water and gel-like organic substances are involved.

The results help to identify and quantify the sources of organic aerosol particles. That, in turn, is important for understanding their interactions with clouds and precipitation in the natural climate system. The researchers hope thereby to also be able to better estimate the influence of human activities on global climate change in the future.

SB/NW/PH

Original Publcation

Christopher Pöhlker, Kenia T. Wiedemann, Bärbel Sinha, Manabu Shiraiwa, Sachin S. Gunthe, Mackenzie Smith, Hang Su, Paulo Artaxo, Qi Chen, Yafang Cheng, Wolfgang Elbert, Mary K. Gilles, Arthur L. D. Kilcoyne, Ryan C. Moffet, Markus Weigand, Scot T. Martin, Ulrich Pöschl, Meinrat O. Andreae

Biogenic potassium salt particles as seeds for secondary organic aerosol in the Amazon

Dr. Susanne Benner | Max-Planck-Institut
Further information:
http://www.mpic.de/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht How much biomass grows in the savannah?
16.02.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Canadian glaciers now major contributor to sea level change, UCI study shows
15.02.2017 | University of California - Irvine

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Start codons in DNA may be more numerous than previously thought

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

An alternative to opioids? Compound from marine snail is potent pain reliever

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Warming ponds could accelerate climate change

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>