It seems that we may have a new ally in our quest to reduce global warming - A molecule that goes by the name of Criegee biradica or Criegee Intermediate. If experts are to be believed, this newly discovered oxidizer that is present in our atmosphere has the potential to cool down the Earth and help offset global warming.
While these molecules were first hypothesized by German scientist Rudolf Criegee in the 1950's, detecting them had proved a little elusive until recently. Using ultra sophisticated apparatus designed by Sandia National Laboratories, researchers from the University of Manchester and Bristol were not only able to detect these chemical intermediates in the atmosphere, but also, observe their role. What they discovered was quite encouraging.
Turns out that these tiny molecules are natural cleaning agents that help oxidize or break down some of our worst pollutants - nitrogen dioxide (emitted by vehicles) and sulfur dioxide (released from factories), into sulfate and nitrate, both of which are harmless to the environment. These ultimately lead to cloud formation that help in cooling down our planet.
What's even more encouraging is that these miracles of nature were observed to neutralize the harmful pollutants faster than had been previously believed. And, it gets better - The Criegee biradicals are not dependent on sunlight, which means that the 'cleansing' takes place throughout the day and night.
Now that they have been able to isolate and study the naturally occurring molecule, the team of scientists led by University of Bristol's Professor Dudley Shallcross, is hoping to recreate these chemical intermediaries in the laboratory and enlist them in our fight against global warming.
Given that over the last 100 years, our planet's average surface temperature has increased by 0.8°C, with most of it occurring in the last 30 years, we sure hope they succeed!
Resources: sciencedaily.com, gizmag.com.