Chemical fears as 10 million tons of ‘new class’ of gases found in the atmosphere | Science | News

For the first time, an international team of researchers has discovered hydrotrioxides forming in atmospheric conditions. Scientists have warned that this new class of super reactive gases in the Earth’s atmosphere could affect both human health and global climate. In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers found that through a process known as isoprene oxidation, about 10 million metric tonnes of these gases are formed in the atmosphere every year.

Study senior author Henrik Grum Kjærgaard from the Special School of Copenhagen said: “This is what we have now accomplished.

“The type of compounds we discovered are unique in their structure. And, because they are extremely oxidising, they most likely bring a host of effects that we have yet to uncover.”

In its simplest form, these “hydrotrioxides” refer to a kind of hydrogen polyoxide bonded with water molecules, which contain two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

Hydrogen peroxide, which contains two hydrogen and two oxygen atoms (H2O2) is a chemical compound that is commonly used in bleach.

Hydrotrioxides, chemically characterised as ROOOH, contain three oxygen atoms attached to each other, which make them even more reactive than hydrogen peroxide.

The scientists warned that these chemicals were formed when certain widely emitted gases like soprene and dimethyl sulfide decomposed in the atmosphere.

Jing Chen, a PhD candidate and second author of the study, said: “It’s quite significant that we can now show, through direct observation, that these compounds actually form in the atmosphere, that they are surprisingly stable and that they are formed from almost all chemical compounds.

“All speculation must now be put to rest.”

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