Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Trees may contribute to ozone problem

26.06.2002


Trees may not actually commit suicide, but certain species do produce pollutants that hamper their own growth while contributing to global climate changes and causing harm to other life forms, contend two Texas A&M University researchers.



Renyi Zhang, an atmospheric chemist, is studying one such substance, isoprene, given off by oak trees and leading to increased ozone in our atmosphere. Working under a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Zhang and chemistry professor Simon North have taken on the challenge of unraveling the more than 1,000 reactions that transform organically released isoprene into toxic atmospheric pollutants.

"Air pollution is probably one of the most serious problems facing humankind in the 21st century," said Zhang, a professor in the College of Geosciences. "And certainly, much of that pollution results from human activities. But most people are not aware of the role played by chemical reactions which change substances produced by biogenic species into harmful airborne pollutants.


"Isoprene - C5H8 - is released by the respiration of oak trees and is the second-most abundant naturally produced hydrocarbon (after methane) in our atmosphere," he continued.

"After a complicated series of chemical reactions, isoprene facilitates ozone production, so increased isoprene means more ozone in the air."

Ozone in the upper atmosphere blocks out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, Zhang explained, but nearer the ground, it traps infrared radiation reflected back up from Earth and contributes to heating the air near the planet’s surface, the so-called "Greenhouse Effect." So, more ozone can mean rising temperatures near ground-level, contributing to global warming.

"Although near-ground ozone has some beneficial effects, providing excited oxygen atoms needed to produce the free OH radicals that help to bind other chemicals like sulfur and cleanse them from the atmosphere, excess ozone proves harmful to the health of humans and plants," Zhang said. "For example, too much ozone can retard tree growth or even kill trees. And if too many trees die, there will be more CO2 in the air, further trapping heat and raising the temperature of the planet."

Zhang and North are studying isoprene oxidation related to oak trees in the Houston area, where ozone is contributing to increasing air pollution. They are seeking to understand the critical reactions out of the 1,000 in the isoprene to ozone chain in order to find ways to abate air pollution and allow trees to continue their life-cycle without increasing environmental damage.

Zhang will be using laboratory apparatus to study isoprene using chemical ionization mass spectrometry, while North will look at the chemical process using laser-induced fluorescence. Both researchers also employ methods of quantum chemical calculation to analyze their experimental results. In addition to the NSF grant, their work is being funded by the Welch Foundation, the Texas Advanced Research Program (Chemistry) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

"The isoprene chain reaction is very complicated - in fact, it’s been studied for over 30 years without significant results with regard to fundamental details," said Zhang. "Dr. North and I seeking to discover the direction in which reaction pathways proceed. If we can fully understand the critical steps in the reaction, maybe we can determine where best to intervene in the process to keep both our oak trees and ourselves healthier."


Contact: Judith White, 979-845-4664, jw@univrel.tamu.edu; Renyi Zhang, 979-845-7656, zhang@ariel.met.tamu.edu

Judith White | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Warm winds: New insight into what weakens Antarctic ice shelves

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>