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Study provides new evidence of cooling properties of atmospheric molecule

Posted on April 25, 2013

Scientists have discovered further evidence for the existence of new molecules in the atmosphere that have the potential to off-set global warming by reacting with airborne pollutants.

Researchers from The University of Manchester, Bristol University, Southampton University and Sandia National Laboratories in California have detected the second simplest Criegee intermediate molecule – acetaldehyde oxide – and measured its reactivity.

Intermediates are molecules that are formed during a chemical reaction and react further to produce the final chemicals of the reaction. Criegee intermediates – carbonyl oxides – were first identifies by the team in January last year and shown to be powerful oxidisers, reacting with pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

The authors, whose latest study is again published in the journal Science, believe Criegee intermediates have the potential to cool the planet by converting these pollutants into sulphate and nitrate compounds that will lead to aerosol and cloud formation.

Professor Carl Percival, who led the Manchester team in the University’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, said: “We have carried out the first ever studies on the second simplest Criegee intermediate and were able to show that it also reacts extremely quickly with sulphur dioxide to produce sulphates under experimental conditions.

“We can therefore say that the reaction of these intermediates with sulphur dioxide will have a significant impact on sulphuric acid production in the atmosphere if they follow the pattern established by these two studies.

The paper is titled “Direct Measurements of Conformer-Dependent Reactivity of the Criegee Intermediate CH3COOH,” published in Science.

He continued: “One of the main questions from our first study was if this increased reactivity would be observed for other Criegee intermediates, so with these findings we now have additional evidence that Criegee intermediates are indeed powerful oxidisers of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

Read more at: Phys.org

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