Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The ozone-oxygen cycle is the process by which ozone is continually regenerated in the Earth's stratosphere, all the while converting ultraviolet radiation into heat. The chemistry was worked out by Sidney Chapman in 1930.
How ozone is made
In the first step, an ozone molecule's life begins when intense solar ultraviolet radiation (less than 240 nm) breaks apart an oxygen molecule (O) into two oxygen atoms. These atoms react with other oxygen molecules to form 2 ozone molecules.
- 6O2 + (radiation<240nm) → 6(O + O) → O3 + O3
The rate at which ozone is formed is slow, since there isn't a lot of solar energy at wavelengths less than 240 nm. This production process would take about 1 year to replace the amount of ozone that exists at around 20 km.
How ozone works
When ozone in the upper atmosphere is hit by ultraviolet solar radiation, it quickly undergoes a chemical reaction. The tri-atomic ozone molecule becomes bi-atomic molecular oxygen plus a free oxygen atom:
- O3 + radiation → O2 + O
Free atomic oxygen then quickly reacts with other oxygen molecules and forms ozone again, releasing the extra energy as heat.
- O2 + O → O3 + heat
In the process, penetrating UV light has been turned into harmless heat (i. e. infrared radiation). This cycle keeps the ozone layer in a stable balance while protecting the lower atmosphere from UV radiation, which is harmful to most living beings.
Often there is another molecule, such as N2, involved in removing the heat from the previous reaction. This merely creates a warmer N2 molecule and a contribution to atmospheric warmth.
How ozone is removed
When an oxygen atom and an ozone molecule meet, they "recombine", forming two oxygen molecules:
O3 + O → 2O2
The overall amount of ozone in the stratosphere is determined by a balance between production by solar radiation, and removal by recombination. The removal rate is much slower than the ozone-oxygen cycle rates.
Certain free radicals, the most important being hydroxyl (OH), nitric oxide (NO), and atoms of chlorine (Cl) and bromine (Br), catalyze the recombination reaction, leading to an ozone layer that is thinner than it would be if the catalysts were not present.
Most of the OH and NO are naturally present in the stratosphere, but human activity, most especially the release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons , greatly increased the Cl and Br concentrations, leading to ozone depletion.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details