Scientific Highlights

in the Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry (LUC)

17. Oktober 2018
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Why the Little Ice Age ended in the middle of the 19th century

Media Releases Energy and Environment Enviroment

In the first half of the 19th century, a series of large volcanic eruptions in the tropics led to a temporary global cooling of Earth's climate. That Alpine glaciers grew and subsequently receded again during the final phase of the so-called Little Ice Age was due to a natural process. This has now been proven by PSI researchers on the basis of ice cores.

26. September 2017
In the experimental chamber, a very thin vertical jet of water can be seen, which flows downward in the middle of the picture from a small tube. During the experiment, the chamber contains a gas mixture including ozone, which reacts on the surface with bromide in the water and produces bromine. As an intermediate step in the process, a short-lived compound of bromide and ozone is made, which was detected for the first time ever with the help of X-ray light from SLS. For this proof, the X-ray light knocked …

Light from the particle accelerator helps to understand ozone decomposition

PSI researchers have developed an experimental chamber in which they can recreate atmospheric processes and probe them with unprecedented precision, using X-ray light from the Swiss Light Source SLS. In the initial experiments, they have studied the production of bromine, which plays an essential role in the decomposition of ozone in the lower layers of the atmosphere. In the future, the new experiment chamber will also be available for use by researchers from other scientific fields.

21. September 2017

Coexistence of Physisorbed and Solvated HCl at Warm Ice Surfaces

The interfacial ionization of strong acids is an essential factor of multiphase and heterogeneous chemistry in environmental science, cryospheric science, catalysis research and material science. Using Near Ambient Pressure X-ray Photoelectron (NAPP) spectroscopy, we directly detected a low surface coverage of adsorbed HCl at 253 K in both molecular and dissociated states and interpret the results as physisorbed molecular HCl at the outermost ice surface and dissociation occurring upon solvation deeper in the interfacial region. This study gives clear evidence for nonuniformity across the air−ice interface and questions the use of acid−base concepts in interfacial processes.

22. Februar 2017

Ice-core evidence of earliest extensive copper metallurgy in the Andes 2700 years ago

Although copper (Cu) was essential for the wealth of pre- and post-colonial societies in the Andes, the onset of extensive Cu metallurgy in South America is still debated. Based on a 6500 year ice-core Cu record from Illimani glacier in Bolivia we provide the first complete history of large-scale Cu smelting activities in South America. Earliest anthropogenic Cu pollution was found during the Early Horizon period ~700-50 BC. We attribute the onset of intensified Cu smelting in South America to the activities of the central Andean Chiripa and Chavin cultures ~2700 years ago. This study provides for the first time substantial evidence for extensive Cu metallurgy already during these early cultures.

24. Mai 2016
The results indicate a way with which nitrogen oxides deriving from human activities may boost secondary organic aerosol production from biogenic volatile organic compounds.
SVOC and LVOC: volatile organic compounds. 
LVOC and ELVOC: extremely low volatility compounds
ROI:  reactive oxygen intermediates

Organic Nitrate Contribution to New Particle Formation and Growth in Secondary Organic Aerosols from α-Pinene Ozonolysis

The chemical kinetics of organic nitrate production during new particle formation and growth of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) were investigated using the short-lived radioactive tracer 13N in flow-reactor studies of α-pinene oxidation with ozone. Direct and quantitative measurements of the nitrogen content indicate that organic nitrates accounted for ∼40% of SOA mass during initial particle formation, decreasing to ∼15% upon particle growth to the accumulation-mode size range (>100 nm). Experiments with OH scavengers and kinetic model results suggest that organic peroxy radicals formed by α-pinene reacting with secondary OH from ozonolysis are key intermediates in the organic nitrate formation process

10. März 2015

Pb pollution from leaded gasoline in South America in the context of a 2000-year metallurgical history

Exploitation of the extensive polymetallic deposits of the Andean Altiplano in South America since precolonial times has caused substantial emissions of neurotoxic lead (Pb) into the atmosphere; however, its historical significance compared to recent Pb pollution from leaded gasoline is not yet resolved. We present a comprehensive Pb emission history for the last two millennia for South America, based on a continuous, high-resolution, ice core record from Illimani glacier. Illimani is the highest mountain of the eastern Bolivian Andes and is located at the northeastern margin of the Andean Altiplano.

11. Juli 2014
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) records from an Alpine ice core (Fiescherhorn glacier, Switzerland)

Polychlorinated biphenyls in glaciers

We present a highly time-resolved historical record of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from an Alpine ice core (Fiescherhorn glacier, Switzerland). Introduced in the 1940s, PCBs were widely used industrial chemicals. Because of their persistence they are still found in the environment, long after their production phase-out. The Fiescherhorn ice core record covers the entire time period of industrial use of PCBs, that is, 1940?2002. The total concentration of six PCBs varies from 0.5 to 5 ng/L and reveals a temporal trend, with an 8-fold increase from the early 1940s to the peak value in the 1970s.

14. Februar 2014
Estimated historical heavy metal (Cd, Cu, Sb, and Zn) emissions  from the territory of the former Soviet Union during the period 1935-1991 based on ice-core records from Belukha glacier in the Siberian Altai (star).

Ice-core based assessment of historical anthropogenic heavy metal (Cd, Cu, Sb, Zn) emissions in the Soviet Union

The development of strategies and policies aiming at the reduction of environmental exposure to air pollution requires the assessment of historical emissions. Although anthropogenic emissions from the extended territory of the Soviet Union (SU) considerably influenced concentrations of heavy metals in the Northern Hemisphere, Pb is the only metal with long-term historical emission estimates for this region available, whereas for selected other metals only single values exist.