Burning of fossil fuels pumps chemicals into the air that react on surfaces such as buildings and roads to create photochemical smog-forming chlorine atoms, UC Irvine scientists report in a new study.
Under extreme circumstances, this previously unknown chemistry could account for up to 40 parts per billion of ozone – nearly half of California's legal limit on outdoor air pollution. This reaction is not included in computer models used to predict air pollution levels and the effectiveness of ozone control strategies that can cost billions of dollars.
Ozone can cause coughing, throat irritation, chest pain and shortness of breath. Exposure to it has been linked to asthma, bronchitis, cardiopulmonary problems and premature death.
"Realistically, this phenomenon probably accounts for much less than 40 parts per billion, but our results show it could be significant. We should be monitoring it and incorporating it into atmospheric models," said Barbara Finlayson-Pitts, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and lead author of the study. "We still don't really understand important elements of the atmosphere's chemistry."
Study results appear the week of July 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
When fossil fuels burn, compounds called nitrogen oxides are generated. Previously, scientists believed these would be eliminated from the atmosphere upon contact with surfaces.
But UCI scientists discovered that when nitrogen oxides combine with hydrochloric acid from airborne sea salt on buildings, roads and other particles in the air, highly reactive chlorine atoms are created that speed up smog formation.
Hydrochloric acid also is found indoors in cleaning products. When it interacts with nitrogen oxides from appliances such as gas stoves, chlorine compounds form that cause unusual chemistry and contribute to corrosion indoors.
The study was undertaken by scientists involved with AirUCI, an Environmental Molecular Sciences Institute funded by the National Science Foundation. UCI's Jonathan Raff conducted experiments; Bosiljka Njegic and Benny Gerber made theoretical predictions; and Wayne Chang and Donald Dabdub did the modeling. Mark Gordon of Iowa State University also helped with theory.
Said Finlayson-Pitts: "This is a great example of how our unique collaborative group can produce some really great science."
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,200 staff. The top employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.
News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.
UCI maintains an online directory of faculty available as experts to the media. To access, visit www.today.uci.edu/experts. For UCI breaking news, visit www.zotwire.uci.edu.
Jennifer Fitzenberger | EurekAlert!
When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences