Millions of Tons of a Weird New Chemical Have Been Found in Earth’s Atmosphere

Millions of Tons of a Weird New Chemical Have Been Found in Earth’s Atmosphere

Scientists have discovered that an ultra-reactive chemical in the Earth’s atmosphere lasts much longer than we previously thought. In fact, they think millions of tons of this chemical could linger in the atmosphere for several hours.

This ultra-reactive chemical in Earth’s atmosphere may be of concern

ultra-reactive chemicals found in the earth's atmosphereImage source: studio023 / Adobe

The chemicals in question are hydrotrioxides. The chemical is made up of one hydrogen atom and three oxygen atoms. Perhaps the most concerning thing about the lifespan of these ultra-reactive chemicals in Earth’s atmosphere, however, is the implications they have for human health and Earth’s climate.

It was previously believed that hydrotrioxides only persisted for a very short time. Now, however, a new study suggests they could linger in Earth’s atmosphere for at least 20 minutes, possibly longer. And, because it is a product of common chemical reactions, new amounts of the chemical are generated almost constantly.

Additionally, this ultra-reactive chemical in the Earth’s atmosphere can interact extremely quickly with other compounds. And, because hydrotrioxides contain extra oxygen atoms, they can be extremely flammable. In fact, other peroxides have been used in rocket fuel due to their flammability.

This is not a new chemical reaction

chemical reaction in flasksImage source: Alexeievich / Adobe

It is important to note that this is not a new chemical reaction. The study, which the researchers published in the journal Science end of May, says this is the first time we’ve found evidence of these chemicals in the atmosphere. But now that we know this ultra-reactive chemical is in Earth’s atmosphere, some scientists are wondering how it might affect our health.

Scientists consider hydrotrioxides ultra-reactive for a reason. Unlike some other chemicals, hydrotrioxides can interact with just about any other chemical. Moreover, almost all chemical reactions create hydrotrioxides. Thus, researchers estimate that at least 11 million tons of hydrotrioxides are formed in the atmosphere each year.

Because this ultra-reactive chemical is so common in Earth’s atmosphere, scientists believe it could play a key role in how the atmosphere works. What this part is, however, is unclear. To prove this stuff, scientists will need to do more research on hydrotrioxides as a whole.

While we don’t have all of these answers yet, it’s always fascinating to see science confirming the existence of something in our world. Yes, the chemical itself may not be new. But its existence in our atmosphere is new knowledge. And now that we know, we can determine what role it might play, and even if it plays a role in the atmospheres of other planets as well.

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