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New Type of Extremely Reactive Substance Discovered in the Atmosphere

By: April Carson

Nitrogen makes up the bulk of every breath we take, with a healthy dose of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Free radicals are created within the atmosphere. This atmospheric soup is dusted with a variety of compounds and elements, some of which we can only speculate about.

But one of those riddles is rapidly coming into focus. Organic hydrotrioxides are a reactive class of chemicals that exist in the atmosphere, and while they only last for a short time, they might have effects we don't understand yet.

In reality, according to the researchers', you just absorbed a few billion molecules of them while reading this.

What exactly this implies for your health, not to mention the planet's health, is uncertain. However, given that we've just discovered a new gas in the atmosphere of Earth, it's worth investigating further.

The atmosphere of Earth is home to many mysteries, some of which we can only speculate about.

But one of those riddles is rapidly coming into focus. Organic hydrotrioxides are a reactive class of chemicals that exist in the atmosphere, and while they only last for a short time, they might have effects we don't fully understand.

"These chemicals have always been there; we just didn't know about them," says chemist Henrik Grum Kjærgaard at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

"However, the fact that we now have proof of their existence and longevity means it is feasible to investigate their impact, evaluate their consequence, and respond if they turn out to be hazardous. "

Frequently, a single new component can dramatically modify the behavior of a substance.

Water, for example, has two hydrogens and one oxygen. Organic chemistry can combine and swirl into a developing situation we term life thanks to the manner in which its pair of hydrogens and single oxygen interact.

But add one more oxygen, and we get hydrogen peroxide, a far more reactive chemical that can destroy living chemistry.

The final step is to add one more oxygen molecule to this furious little molecule, which results in hydrotrioxide. You only need the correct type of lab equipment, some saturated organic chemicals, and some dry ice to generate it.

Chemists have used the synthesis of a specific flavor of molecular oxygen to make various other chemicals, not exactly the sort of party trick you'd employ to enhance a margarita.

There's been a debate about whether hydrotrioxides can readily form stable structures in the atmosphere, since they're so reactive.

The extreme heat of summer creates a lot of hazardous confusion in this dog-eat-dog world. On the other end, we are experiencing record levels of global warmth and unprecedented changes to our planet's climate systems, with significant consequences for both humanity and nature. Increased ground temperatures can trigger structural damage that leads to failure; they might also increase surface water temperatures, promoting the growth of harmful bacteria and other organisms.

"Most human activity results in the emission of chemical compounds into the air. As a result, understanding how reactions influence atmospheric chemistry is critical if we want to forecast how our actions will impact the atmosphere in the future," adds Kristan H. Møller, another chemist from Copenhagen University who is also an author on this paper.

The team's studies now provide the first direct evidence of hydrotrioxide formation under ambient conditions from a variety of substances known to be present in our atmosphere.

"This study highlights the importance of understanding the complex chemical interactions taking place in our atmosphere. The results obtained here will help to improve our understanding of how anthropogenic activities are impacting atmospheric chemistry," concludes Lars H. Pilø, an atmospheric chemist from the University of Oslo who also participated in this work.

This allowed them to examine how the compound is most likely manufactured, how long it lasts, and how it deteriorates.

Hydrotrioxide is formed in the atmosphere when certain gases are combined. For example, isoprene (a type of hydrocarbon) can react in the air to produce around 10 million metric tons of hydrotrioxide each year.

There are several more possibilities. According to the team's calculations, any compound may potentially play a part in the formation of hydrotrioxides in the atmosphere, which persist for anything from a few minutes to a few hours.

During this period, they can be utilized as a powerful oxidant in a variety of responses, some of which might be held within micron-sized solids riding the winds.

According to Kjærgaard, "It's easy to assume that new chemicals are created in the aerosols and can be hazardous if breathed in. However, further study is needed to address these possible health risks."

Knowing how their internal chemistry causes them to develop or decay may alter how we simulate our climate, because aerosols also impact the planet's reflection of sunshine.

The search for extra answers is just getting started. Additional studies will undoubtedly be conducted to determine the part played by hydrotrioxides in our planet's air cocktail. It's only the start, according to University of Copenhagen researcher Jing Chen.

The air around us, says Chen, is a "huge tangle of complex chemical reactions."

"As academics, we need to keep an open mind if we want to improve our ability to find answers."

The findings were originally published in Science.

Don't Let Fear Rob You Of Your Peace by Elisabeth Hoekstra and Billy Carson


About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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