Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Purdue, NASA research provides blueprint for molecular basis of global warming

19.11.2009
A new study indicates that major chemicals most often cited as leading causes of climate change, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are outclassed in their warming potential by compounds receiving less attention.

Purdue University and NASA examined more than a dozen chemicals, most of which are generated by humans, and have developed a blueprint for the underlying molecular machinery of global warming. The results appear in a special edition of the American Chemical Society's Journal of Physical Chemistry A, released Nov. 12.

The compounds, which contain fluorine atoms, are far more efficient at blocking radiation in the "atmospheric window," said Purdue Professor Joseph Francisco, who helped author the study. The atmospheric window is the frequency in the infrared region through which radiation from Earth is released into space, helping to cool the planet. When that radiation is trapped instead of being released, a "greenhouse effect" results, warming the globe. Most of the chemicals in question are used industrially, he said.

NASA scientist Timothy Lee, lead author of the study with Francisco and NASA postdoctoral fellow Partha Bera, characterized the fluorinated compounds as having the potential to quickly slam the atmospheric window shut, as opposed to gradually easing it shut like carbon dioxide.

In the results, chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur and nitrogen fluorides stood out in their warming potential because of their efficiency to trap radiation in the atmospheric window.

"It's actually rather stark," said Francisco, a Purdue chemistry and earth and atmospheric sciences professor, whose research focuses on the chemistry of molecules in the atmosphere.

An understanding of how the chemicals contribute to climate change on a molecular scale affords the opportunity to create benign alternatives and to test new chemicals for their global warming capability before they go to market, Francisco said.

"Now you have a rational design basis," he said.

The researchers looked at more than a dozen chemicals, often referred to as "greenhouse gases," listed as warming agents by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most prominent international scientific group monitoring global warming. The study employed both results from experimental observations and from computer modeling using supercomputers from Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), Purdue's central information technology organization, and NASA. The goal was to determine which chemical and physical properties are most important in contributing to global warming.

"Believe it or not, nobody has ever delineated these properties," Lee said.

CFC use has waned with the discovery that the chemicals contribute to the destruction of Earth's ozone layer, which absorbs most of the dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the sun. But HFCs and PFCs are widely used in air conditioning and the manufacturing of electronics, appliances and carpets. Other uses range from application as a blood substitute in transfusions to tracking leaks in natural gas lines.

"Although current concentrations of some of these trace gases have been found to be substantially small compared to carbon dioxide, their concentration is on the rise," the study notes. "With the current rate of increase, they will be important contributors in the future, according to some models."

The fluorine atoms that characterize the chemicals are highly electro-negative and tend to pull electrons to themselves, Francisco said. This shift makes the molecules more efficient at absorbing radiation, which would normally bleed harmlessly into space. As a result, the fluorine-containing compounds are the most effective global warming agents, the study concludes.

The compounds also persist longer than carbon dioxide and other major global warming agents, said Lee, chief of the Space Science and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center. The concern is that, even if emitted into the atmosphere in lower quantities, the chemicals might have a powerful cumulative effect over time. Some of these chemicals don't break down for thousands of years.

The research was supported by NASA.

Writer: Greg Kline, 765-494-8167, gkline@purdue.edu
Sources: Joseph Francisco, 765-494-7851, francisc@purdue.edu
Timothy Lee, 650-604-5208, Timothy.J.Lee@nasa.gov
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Greg Kline | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jp905097g

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>