Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Missing Link to Cloud Formation Found

12.08.2009
New chemical research shows how cloud seedlings form over forested areas.

The discovery of an unknown hitherto chemical compound in the atmosphere may help to explain how and when clouds are formed. The discovery of the so called dihydroxyepoxides (an aerosol-precursor), is reported in this week's issue of Science by a team comprising of researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of Copenhagen (UoC).

Professor Henrik Kjærgaard from the Department of Chemistry at the UoC calls the new compounds a missing link in the formation of clouds.

- "We know that aerosols are important in the formation of clouds but, we didn't know much about how the aerosols themselves were formed. This new compound may be just what we were looking for," says the professor who has recently moved from University of Otago, New Zealand to fill his new appointment in Copenhagen. The new compound was originally found when a team of researchers from Caltech mounted a measuring device known as a Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometer (CIMS) on an aeroplane, and flew it over the oaken forests of Northern America.

Maple Clouds
Next to methane, deciduous plants and trees such as oak and maple, are known to be the largest source of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere; an important factor in climate-change. As a result, the researchers went into the lab to calculate what occurs to the tree-released hydrocarbon known as isoprene, when it meets other compounds in the atmosphere. Based on previous research, isoprene was expected to break down into smaller molecules. But previous research was done with air found over cities, where levels of the combustion by-product NOx are very high. And the chemicals formed when isoprene interacts with NOx do not easily form aerosols. However, when subjected to air as found over pristine stretches of forest, the fate of the tree-released hydrocarbons turned out to be a very different one. Without the NOx to skew the process, isoprene unexpectedly degraded into the new compound: dihydroxyepoxide. This new compound appears to be extremely reactive and likely to form aerosols.
Clouds: Central to Climate Studies
The study detailed in this week's issue of Science, reports the laboratory measurement of the isoprene degradation by hydroxyl radicals "the vacuum cleaner of the atmosphere". The detection of these epoxides as a significant final product in the isoprene breakdown was supported by isotope and theoretical studies, and corroborated the field measurements. The theoretical studies from Kjaergaar's group at the University of Otago, improved the CIMS technique and supported the chemical degradation mechanisms proposed. Discovering a new and unexpected atmospheric compound in the air over forests is fundamental research. Nevertheless, with manmade climate-change looming on the horizon, the research might find applications sooner that expected. The new aerosol-precursor may be extremely important when researchers attempt to compute projected climate change.

- "That means, that the new compound is a missing link in more that one sense", Professor Kjærgaard states. "Clouds can retain as well as block the heat of the sun, so, if we don't understand what drives the formation of clouds, our climate-models are bound to be less than exact".

Jes Andersen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ku.dk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>