This is an important finding because lack of iron can be a limiting factor for plankton growth in the ocean - especially in the southern oceans and parts of the eastern Pacific. Addition of such iron nanoparticles would trigger increased absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
"This could be a very important discovery because there's only a very small amount of soluble iron in the ocean and if plankton use the iron nanoparticles formed in clouds then the whole flux of bioavailable iron to the oceans needs to be revised," says Dr Zongbo Shi, lead author of the research from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.
Water droplets in clouds generally form around dust and other particles. When clouds evaporate, as they often do naturally, the surface of the particle can become very acidic. This is especially true where the air is polluted.
Paradoxically, scientists suggest that large scale industry in countries like China could be combating global warming to some extent by creating more bioavailable iron in the oceans, and therefore increasing carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.
"Man made pollution adds more acid to the atmosphere and therefore may encourage the formation of more iron nanoparticles," says Dr Shi.
Scientists carried out the research by simulating clouds in the laboratory to which they added Saharan dust samples. They were then able to mimic natural conditions in order to monitor the chemical processes happening in the system. The laboratory experiments have been confirmed in natural samples where such cloud processing is known to have occurred.
The findings highlight the complexity of the pattern of natural iron delivery to the oceans, throwing new light on recent high profile plans to add iron to the southern oceans artificially to stimulate plankton growth.
"This process is happening in clouds all over the world, but there are particularly interesting consequences for the oceans. What we have uncovered is a previously unknown source of bioavailable iron that is being delivered to the Earth's surface in precipitation," says Professor Michael Krom, the principal investigator of the research, also at the University of Leeds.
The research was published in the September issue of Environmental Science and Technology and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
For more information
Dr Zongbo Shi is available for interview. Please contact the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 4031
The article 'Formation for Iron Nanoparticles and Increase in Iron Reactivity in Mineral Dust during Simulated Cloud Processing' is available to journalists on request.
Notes for Editors
The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK with more than 30,000 students from 130 countries and a turnover of £450m. The University is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities and the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed it to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015. www.leeds.ac.uk
The School of Earth and Environment is established as one of the leading centres of international excellence across the Earth and Environmental Sciences. In the UK RAE 2008, we ranked second nationally in terms of research power. It focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to understanding our environment, studying the Earth from its core to its atmosphere and examining the social and economic dimensions of sustainability.
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.
So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...
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...
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...
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...
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...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
28.10.2016 | Life Sciences