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In 1839, a German scientist Christian Schonbein was a professor of chemistry at the University of Basel in Switzerland. In addition to his teaching duties, he regularly performed secret experiments in hopes of finding out which substances make up the Earth's atmosphere. So Schonbein combined and separated a number of liquids and gases. During one of these experiments, Schonbein passed an electric charge thought a glass beaker of water, be noticed a very familiar odor. He first thought it was the result of electrically charge oxygen atoms but he last realized that he had found a new substance. He named this new substance ozone, after the Greek word open, meaning "to smell." Ozone is a gas and is a form of oxygen.
Each molecule of ozone contains three atoms of oxygen. Molecules are tiny building blocks that form all gases, liquids, and solids. Each one of these molecules can be broken down even smaller into tinier building blocks called atoms, which are the basic particles of all matter. Because each molecule of ozone is composed of three atoms, ozone is referred to 03. Ozone gas is colourless but has a strong odor. The "electrical" smell that often lingers after a summer thunderstorm is the smell of ozone.
The ozone molecule is unstable; it has a tendency to break apart and join with other atoms. This process, which is called, oxidation, can be destructive. For Example, rust develops on iron when oxygen atoms in the ozone combine with iron atoms. Similarly, ozone can weaken other materials such as nylon or rubber. In large amounts can even kill living cells.
For this reason, scientists have to monitor ozone levels constantly. Schonbein himself invented a very primitive way of measuring levels of ozone levels. First, he soaked a piece of paper with a chemical. As the chemical dried the ozone in the air oxidized it. This process turned the paper blue. The more ozone that was around the darker the paper turned.
Schonbein placed a new piece of paper outside everyday in order to measure the levels of ozone in the air. In time, scientists came to refer to this technique as the Schonbein Paper Method (SPM). But unfortunately, this method shoes only if the ozone levels are light, moderate, or heavy, so it is not very precise. A better method for measuring ozone levels was developed by the French in 1876. A scientist by the name of Charles Sort who had been studying weather and ozone, decided that Schonbein's way werent accurate enough for him. So Sort planned his own approach at measuring ozone levels that would be more accurate than Schonbein's papers.
He measured ozone by observing the way it reacted with chemicals dissolved in water. Using this method, he was able to more accurately measure ozone. Sort measured the air nearly every day for thirty-four years. Later, scientists were able to compare the ozone levels of past and present.
Modern scientists have an even more accurate method for measuring ozone. This method is called gas chromatography. This process works by filtering and burning gases containing ozone. The device used in this process is so precise that it can detect a single molecule of ozone among one million other molecules. There are two general types of ozone: low-level and upper-level ozone. Low-level ozone exists near the earths surface in the lowest portion of the atmosphere.
This is why scientists refer to it as low-level ozone. This lowest atmospheric layer, occupying the space between the earths surface and an altitude of about six to nine miles, is called the troposphere. Scientist also refer to low-level ozone as troposphere. Troposphere ozone, which can be harmful to living things, is created in many ways, Usually, ozone is produced when sunlight reacts with chemicals released into the air. Sometimes, human activities are responsible for the creation of ozone. Exhausts for gasoline burning cars and trucks, for example, contain various pollutions, including hydrocarbons and nitric oxide.
These substances react with each other and also with sunlight, creating ozone in the process. Emissions form coal, gas, and oil burning utility plants and vapours from paint strippers, dry cleaners methods, and charcoal lighter fluids also produce ozone when they mix with sunlight. Fire, whether it occurs naturally or is set by human beings, is also a source of low-level ozone. The smoke from fire contains the chemicals that when mix with sunlight produce a chemical reactions which yields the ozone molecule.
For example, at harvest time down in Brazil of the sugarcane plant, thousands of fires are set burning off the excess amounts of sugarcane and the left over stalks. Because Brazil is so close to the equator and it receives the most amount of the suns rays, more than the north or the south, creating major amounts of ozone pollution and that is not a good thing. Other sources of tropospheric ozone are completely natural. During electrical storms, bolts of lightning rip through the troposphere, separating the atoms of some oxygen molecules. Some of these atoms combine with other oxygen molecules to create ozone.
There are other ways nature makes low-level ozone. Ozone forms when sunlight combines with methane gas, a gas produced and given by decaying plant and animal tissue and by the gaseous waste of grazing animals like cows and sheep. Another natural source of troposphere ozone was not fully understood by scientists until the late 1980 s. In 1987, William Chameidas, Ronald Lindsay, and Jennifer Richardson, all of the Georgia Institute of Technology, studied ozone levels around Atlanta, Georgia.
They found that the amount of ozone in the air was far too much to be attributed to cars and factories alone. The researchers finally concluded that trees in the Atlanta are creating ozone. The researchers found that trees released hydrocarbons during photosynthesis. This is the process green plants use sunlight to create energy. When these hydrocarbons react with sunlight and pollutants, they create low-level ozone. Trees generate large amounts of hydrocarbons.
In fact, Chameides and the others found that the amount of hydrocarbons released by trees, in the Atlanta region, was about the same as the amount emitted by all cars and industrial facilities in the same area. This does not mean that trees pollute. Atmospheric scientist Jack Fishman of the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations Langley Research Center, explains: Actually, trees dont pollute. In a natural forest environment, the concentration of [pollutants from engine exhausts] is usually very low, so the hydrocarbon given off by trees is harmlessly transformed into substances other than ozone. (Raloff, 1990) Only when the hydrocarbons, released by the trees, combine with other pollutants, given off by fuel burning activities of humans, is the ozone molecule created, and too much of it.
The second general type of ozone exists in the upper portion of the earths atmosphere and is called upper-level ozone. This layer of the atmosphere, extending from about twelve to twenty four miles above the planets surface, is known as the stratosphere. Therefore, scientists also refer to upper-level ozone as stratosphere ozone. This ozone layer blocks the most dangerous of the suns rays and prevents them from harming living things on earth. This role as protector of life below began billions of years ago when there was little oxygen in the air. When ocean plants first appeared on earth, most had to stay below the waters surface.
This was to avoid ultraviolet light, a kind of solar ray that damages living tissue. Ultraviolet light flooded the primitive earth, making the development of life a slow, painstaking process. As the oxygen given off by the early plants slowly built up in the atmosphere, some of it floated high into the stratosphere. There, the oxygen molecules encountered sunlight that was stronger than what reached the surface.
This combination of sunlight and oxygen molecules produced ozone, a gas that could readily absorb ultraviolet light. With protection provided by the ozone layer, plants thrived in the ocean and on its surface. The amount of oxygen in the air increased and formed more ozone. Eventually, the stratospheric ozone layer grew thick enough to protect more advanced forms of life forms from ultraviolet radiation.
Life evolved onto land and into millions of varieties of plants and animal species known today, including human beings. The nature of ozone appears to go against common sense. On the one hand, there is low-level, troposphere ozone, which is classified as a pollution; there is the upper-level, stratospheric ozone that is essential to the existence of life. The amount of both kinds of ozone is changing.
Low level ozone is increasing, while the upper-level ozone is decreasing. Scientists disagree on what these changes mean but it appears that there is too much of one kind and too little of the other. Researchers are trying to determine how these levels of ozone will affect the world environment and peoples lives. While too much low-level ozone can be harmful, exactly the opposite is true for upper-level ozone. Because ozone high in the stratosphere absorbs incoming ultraviolet light from the sun, it keeps most of these destructive rays from reaching the earths surface. Ultraviolet radiation...
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