November 28, 2022

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New chemical compound discovered in the atmosphere: ‘extremely reactive’

Highly reactive chemical compounds that are formed under natural conditions and which, under certain conditions, can pose a danger to human health and the environment. This is what some University of Copenhagen scientists discovered.

The research, recently published in Science, documents the formation of hydroxides, a gaseous chemical compound made specifically of three oxygen atoms bonded together. It is a highly oxidizing substance, which is why it is a danger to human health and the climate. In particular, the compound is hydrogen peroxide consisting of two oxygen atoms which, when bonded together, are highly reactive, flammable and explosive. Peroxides are usually used for a variety of purposes, including teeth whitening and wound cleaning as well. But not only this, peroxides are also used as fuels for vehicles.

For many years, scientists have wondered whether or not there is trioxide in the atmosphere, but this has not yet been proven. It is, in fact, a completely new class of chemical compounds that, according to what emerged from the study, are formed through the atmospheric decomposition of known substances present in the atmosphere, including isoprene and dimethyl sulfide. According to the team of researchers, these compounds are created through the interaction of two types of radicals and their duration can vary from a few minutes to several hours. However, when they enter the air, they present a serious danger.

“The type of compounds we discovered are unique in their structure, and because they are highly oxidized, they likely exhibit a number of effects that we haven’t yet discovered,” explained Jing Chen, a student in the university’s Department of Chemistry and University co-author on the research. – It is very important that we can now prove, by direct observation, that these compounds do indeed form in the atmosphere, that they are surprisingly stable, and that they consist of almost any chemical compound. The discovery suggests that there may be many other things in the air that we don’t know about yet. In fact, the air around us is a huge tangle of complex chemical reactions. As researchers, we must open our minds if we want to improve finding solutions” – he concluded.

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