Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NPL scientists blend synthetic air to measure climate change

26.02.2014

New gas standard to meet increasing demand

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have produced a synthetic air reference standard which can be used to accurately measure levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. This will greatly help scientists contribute to our understanding of climate change.


This is a photo of gas cylinders.

Credit: National Physical Laboratory

A paper published in Analytical Chemistry describes how researchers at NPL have created a synthetic gas standard for the first time, which is comparable to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) scale and can be quickly produced in a laboratory and distributed, meeting growing demand.

The bulk of demand for gas standards comes from atmospheric monitoring stations around the world. The data collected from these is important to our understanding of climate change.

To reliably compare the concentration of carbon dioxide and methane in air at different locations, and over time, a primary standard to which all measurements relate is required. We must be able to relate the measurements to a trusted base unit, so we can reliably compare measurement between London and Beijing, or between 1990 and 2014.

The current primary standards for carbon dioxide and methane are a suite of cylinders of compressed air captured from Niwot Ridge in Colorado and held at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

They are used to create secondary standards, which are used to calibrate the instruments that measure greenhouse gasses around the world.

A new improved measurement technique - cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) - has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of atmospheric measurements taken. As the requirement for data that is comparable to the WMO scale increases, there is a corresponding increase in the demand for comparable reference standards.

Supplying the demand for reference standards comparable to the WMO scale is becoming an issue. An infrastructure to disseminate reference standards prepared gravimetrically – i.e. by weighing the gas in the cylinder - that are traceable to the International System of Units (SI) offers a means of broadening availability. These could overcome the cost and complexity of sampling air under global background conditions which can only be carried out at remote locations.

NPL has developed a solution, producing a synthetic standard which can be used to calibrate carbon dioxide and methane measuring instruments. Rather than sampling air directly, NPL created the sample in the laboratory by carefully blending a mix of gaseous components found in air.

However preparing reference standards synthetically presents a significant challenge. Industrially produced carbon dioxide has a different isotopic distribution to that of atmospheric air, which measurement instruments read differently.

Paul Brewer, Principal Research Scientist at NPL, said: "By using high accuracy gravimetry, we were able to prepare a gas mixture that accurately replicated the natural occurring isotopic carbon dioxide. The samples were tested using NPL's world leading measurement equipment and expertise, which demonstrated that the synthetic standard was comparable with the NOAA standard and suitable for use with the international measurement scale for atmospheric monitoring."

The research has demonstrated that air standards comparable to the WMO scale can be prepared synthetically with an isotopic distribution matching that in the atmosphere. The methods used can be replicated, leading to widespread availability of standards for globally monitoring these two high impact greenhouse gasses. For the international atmospheric monitoring community and for gas companies, this could solve the pressing supply issue.

The project has received widespread support from the atmospheric measurement community. Euan G. Nisbet, Foundation Professor of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway maintains an Atlantic network of greenhouse gas measurements. He says: "Standards are a critical problem in greenhouse gas measurement. Developing high accuracy reference standards of carbon dioxide and methane with international comparability, and traceability to the SI, will greatly contribute to our work, and to improving our understanding of how greenhouse gases affect the atmosphere."

The full paper can be viewed here:

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ac403982m 

Alex Cloney | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New method opens crystal clear views of biomolecules
11.02.2016 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

nachricht Scientists from MIPT gain insights into 'forbidden' chemistry
11.02.2016 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Production of an AIDS vaccine in algae

Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.

The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...

Im Focus: The most accurate optical single-ion clock worldwide

Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".

Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...

Im Focus: Goodbye ground control: autonomous nanosatellites

The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.

Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...

Im Focus: Flow phenomena on solid surfaces: Physicists highlight key role played by boundary layer velocity

Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.

The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

Im Focus: New study: How stable is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet?

Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels

A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Travel grants available: Meet the world’s most proficient mathematicians and computer scientists

09.02.2016 | Event News

AKL’16: Experience Laser Technology Live in Europe´s Largest Laser Application Center!

02.02.2016 | Event News

From intelligent knee braces to anti-theft backpacks

26.01.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

New method opens crystal clear views of biomolecules

11.02.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists take nanoparticle snapshots

11.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA sees development of Tropical Storm 11P in Southwestern Pacific

11.02.2016 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>