Tuesday, 18 August 2009 19:43

An photograph of a laboratory workerA chemist measures how CFCs damage the ozone layer in the lab by using a toxic substance that mirrors these free radicals giving us the tools to help prevent the ozone layer from being depleted further in the future.

Dr David Rowley of the University College London Chemistry Department research is all about simulating what happens in the earth’s atmosphere to find out how chemical changes can affect the environment.

One of the sources of free radicals are CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), chemical compounds that can be found in refrigerators and aerosol cans. When the CFCs are broken down by the sun they form these dangerous free radicals.

These ‘free radicals’ are atoms and molecules that are missing electrons. This makes them unstable and damaging because the only way they can become stable again is to steal the electron they need from another atom or molecule.

Dr David Rowley of the University College London Chemistry Department talks about his work, why he’s handling one of the most dangerous chemicals they have in the lab, and why it's important to understand the chemical reactions that take place in the Earth's atmosphere.

Dr Rowley introduces us to the cool way they cheat to make these CFCs in the lab - using the very toxic substance he’s handling in the video he makes an explosive, toxic gas that they then fire a laser at to form these free radicals.

Transcript

This is a great example of how work done in the lab can help us understand the chemical reactions that take place in the Earth’s atmosphere, and gives us the tools to help prevent the ozone layer from being depleted further in the future.


Related Links

Watch these short videos from UCL Chemistry department to give you a glimpse into the research being carryied out to help meet the many global challenges of the 21st Century.

Studying science can open doors into a whole variety of jobs – from working with some of the world’s biggest telescopes in Hawaii, researching the life-saving drugs of the future in a high-tech lab, or helping prepare weather forecasts from the frozen Antarctic.

See another Lab Reporter video by watching Lab Report: Dr Jenny Rohn


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