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 Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology
29.07.2016 | Boyce Thompson Institute

nachricht Molecular troublemakers instead of antibiotics?
29.07.2016 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-assembling nano inks form conductive and transparent grids during imprint

Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.

To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...

Im Focus: The Glowing Brain

A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology

On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...

Im Focus: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Vortex laser offers hope for Moore's Law

29.07.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology

29.07.2016 | Life Sciences

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>