Hot off the Press

A couple of recent articles in the science section of the BBC have caught my eye lately. The first one I read a few days ago or so ago concerned the atmosphere of Mars. It turns out that over time, most of the Martian atmosphere has been lost into space (how, I’m not too sure) but what caught my eye was the method used to determine the rate of loss of gas in the atmosphere to space. I have written about a ...

Combustion kept simple

When teaching about combustion, we must remember to consider 'complete' and 'incomplete' combustion. During complete combustion, the fuel will produce CO2 and H2O. Incomplete combustion produces CO or C (soot). A neat way of showing this to your class is to just use a bunsen burner. With the air hole closed, explain that the smoky, yellow flame is caused by incomplete combustion - the soot can be collected by placing a cool beaker of water under the flame. Opening the air hole allows complete ...

Iron and its removal of Carbon Dioxide

  Iron fertilization. This is the name given to the process where iron filings are intentionally sprayed (or added) to the ocean. By NOAA MESA Project (http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/bigs/fish1880.jpg ) , via Wikimedia CommonsWhy? The idea is that the iron, stimulates the growth of plankton, that in term removes CO2 from the atmosphere. The good news? It actually works. Plankton does absorb CO2. When it dies, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, taking the carbon with it. The bad news? The amount of carbon ...

Super Plants

  Here is an imaginative way of trying to reduce CO2 emissions: Fruit and vegatables are grown in an enriched CO2 atmosphere just outside Rotterdam using waste CO2 from an oil refinery. Image reproduced according to the licence found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Carrot.jpg This CO2 would make its way into the atmosphere but is now getting locked up in plants.

Greener, Cleaner Flights

  It has been known for sometime that airplanes are a major contributor to climate change. They release alot of CO2 and NOx high up in the atmosphere. However, a team of researchers from MIT have developed an aircraft  that uses 70% less fuel than current airplanes. The engines use a new technique, 'Boundary Layer Ingestion' which I know very little about! The plane does have slimmer wings and a smaller tail which help to reduce drag and hence reduce fuel. Sounds great but ...

Climate Change Link to CO2

  Nothing ground breaking here but recent research shows a ‘global pattern’ of change that begun 2.7 million years ago. By Ansgar Walk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia CommonsThere seems to be a feedback process which has amplified climate change. Dr Carrie Lear told BBC News that “this study reveals a feedback process that has magnified climate change since the inception of Northern Hemisphere glaciation 2.7 million years ago. It seems the tropical warming caused by high CO2 levels ...

The Carbon Cycle (in a nutshell)

  The recycling of Carbon on the earth is an essential process as it helps maintain the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.   Carbon is stored (locked up) in fossil fuels, the sea, organic material and the atmosphere. This balance was evenly maintained …. until we came along and started to cut down trees or burn fossil fuels, increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Article adapted from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/sci_nat/04/climate_change/html/carbon.stm

Cooking with Chemistry

Toffee with a fizz - simple to make but can you explain the Chemistry? Put two tablespoons of golden syrup and 3 tablespoons of sugar into a pan, heat the mixture gently until it all melts and then gently bring it to the boil. Simmer for around 5 minutes and then add a large tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to the mixture. It will foam and froth up. Pour the mixture into a cool greased tin and allow it to cool. While you ...

Carbon Neutral Biofuels

  What do we mean by Carbon Neutral? The CO2 produced in its combustion and fermentation will equal the CO2 used in its production. Ethanol is sometimes touted as a Carbon Neutral bio-fuel. Why? Well, to make the ethanol a plant photosynthesizes to produce sugar. 6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2   Sugar is then fermented to produced ethanol. C6H12O6 → 2C2H5OH + 2CO2   When ethanol is combusted, the CO2 evolved equals the CO2 used in its production. 2C2H5OH + 6O2 → 4CO2 + 6H2O Simple? It does look that ...