J. Andrew Harrison SSN: 412-37-9987 CHEM 3510 Dr. Katmai Pioneers In Ozone Research Win Nobel Prize Three fellows of the American Geophysical Union were awarded the Nobel prize in the area of atmospheric research by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1995. The honored professors were: Paul Crutzen of the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany; Mario Molina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and F. Sherwood Rowland of the University of California, Irvine. The steps they took to gain an understanding of the chemistry of the ozone layer (formation and decomposition of ozone) well qualified them for this honor.
In the past, most researchers thought that ozone depletion was a direct result of catalytic reactions involving OH and HO 2 radicals. Crutzen did not believe in this and, therefore, chose to demonstrate significance of nitrogen oxides (NO and NO 2).
Noticing a correlation between ozone depletion and nitrogen oxide concentration in the upper atmosphere, he became the first to propose how the nitrogen oxides got to the stratosphere. The nitrogen oxides react with ozone without being consumed, thus greatly enhancing the ozone layers rate of reduction. Molina and Rowland then came into play with their joint hypothesis stating that, fluorocarbons in general and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs and freon’s) in particular, posed a serious threat to the ozone layer.
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At the time of their hypothesis, chlorofluorocarbons were used in refrigerators, air conditioners, plastic foams, and most aerosol sprays. Molina and Rowland realized that the chemically stable CFCs could be transported to the stratosphere via normal air movements. There, ultraviolet light would break up the molecules and release chlorine, a chemical which catalyzes ozone destruction. Because of this finding, the U. S.
banned CFCs as aerosol propellants in 1978. This award is being hailed as a great recognition for atmospheric science as a whole. May other scientists follow in their footsteps.