New Discovery: Strong Electric Field Creates Hydroxide, Key Molecule in Clearing Air Pollution

April 11, 2023
1 min read

A mechanism that creates hydroxide through a strong electric field at the surface between airborne water droplets & surrounding air has been discovered and announced.

The atmosphere can be helped by OH (hydroxide) to clear itself of pollutants & greenhouse gasses, which challenges previous beliefs & could significantly change air pollution models. Without OH, many pollutants would keep aggregating in the atmosphere.

Sergey Nizkorodov, a University of California, Irvine Professor of Chemistry, is a member of the research team. A key player in atmospheric chemistry, OH, helps to remove poisonous gasses from the atmosphere.

Scientists thought that hydroxide was mainly formed by sunlight until now, but the new study found that a strong electric field can create OH as well. Prior research by Stanford University scientists led by Richard Zare was built on by the research team. The special conditions on the surface of the droplets create OH spontaneously.

The production rates of OH in darkness can exceed those from drivers like sunlight exposure. Understanding the source of OH is altered by the findings of the research team. An important oxidant inside water droplets is OH, & the main assumption in the models is that OH comes from the air.

Air pollution models could be changed quite significantly by the new OH production mechanism. To perform carefully designed experiments in the real atmosphere in different parts of the world is the next step to determining whether this new OH production mechanism plays a role.

These results are expected by the team to make a splash in the atmospheric research community. Following up on this, the study could lead to many lab experiments.

A prime place for such science to continue happening is the University of California, Irvine. A molecule that helps clear the atmosphere of pollutants & greenhouse gasses is hydroxide (OH). It was viewed as the mechanism for how OH forms as a complete story, but new research challenges previous beliefs. 

OH can be created by a previously unknown mechanism as a strong electric field that exists at the surface of airborne water droplets & the surrounding air. OH concentrations in different vials were measured by the research team, & tracked OH production in darkness. The rates of OH production in darkness mirror and even exceed rates from drivers like sunlight exposure.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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