Hello all! Long time no see!
As spring break approaches, many of you, including myself, are probably headed somewhere warm, wet and sun-filled–that’s right, the beach. As you stare out to sea and empty your mind of the stress that school or work has put on you, I have an interesting article for you to contemplate.
Ahh the sea… It has many names and harbors un-imaginable life forms in it’s ever changing tides. What doesn’t seem to change is this: the ocean’s surface sucks up any nitrogen-oxides (which are produced by the burning of fossil fuels and is commonly found in photochemical smog) that are found in the polluted air above it. In California, research teams from UC San Diego have found in a recent study that the ocean water near the California coast line removes about 15 percent of these chemicals every single night.
Now you may be asking “how?” Well, dear reader, that is an excellent question, whose answer comes down to something incredibly basic: the ocean’s organically chemical composition. Everyone knows that the sea is salty, but few others than say, bio-chemists can truly appreciate how richly organic the ocean surface is. This of course leads to a “variety of chemical reactions” as Professor Tim Bertram stated in a recently published article by the University of California, San Diego’s research team.
In order to track the cycle of nitrogen in the atmosphere, Bertram and his team studied a specific molecule that is created whenever a nitrogen-oxide is oxidated: di-nitrogen pentoxide. This molecule reacts with the chloride in sea salt.
For all of you chemistry-buffs, this is where it really gets interesting with the formation of nitryl chloride and the way it regenerates nitrogen oxides when the sun rises the next morning. For those of you to whom that last statement means nothing, never fear; basically, the two molecules react as the sun rises and the result is a single chlorine atom attacks surrounding molecules like a rabid animal might… Well, on a molecular level of course. The result? Ozone formation. Ahh there’s a word we all know!
So, basically, the ocean is “a terminal sink for nocturnal nitrogen oxides, and not a source for nitryl chloride under these sampling conditions” – Michelle Kim. Scientists haven’t been able to determine this before however, due to the fact that their arsenal of tools was a little bare for this type of massive molecular-level study. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg so-to-speak, and more studies of micro-molecular/meteorological ecosystems in what Betram called their “native states.”
To read the actual article: http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/the_surface_of_the_sea_is_a_sink_for_nitrogen_oxides_at_night
Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean