Chemical and photochemical reactions in the atmospheres
Reactions of many trace gases found in the atmosphere with the hydroxyl radical exert a profound effect on the composition of atmosphere. Reactions with some of the atmospheric trace gases are discussed below.
1. REACTION WITH SULPHIDES
Biologically produced sulfur gases are emitted into the atmosphere mainly as sulphides such as dimethyl sulphide, hydrogen sulphide and carbon disulphide. All these react with hydroxyl radical in the atmosphere.
(a) Dimethyl sulphide: This is the major sulphide emission into the atmosphere which reacts with OH radical as follows:
CH3SCH3 + OH —–> CH3SOH + CH3
O3 + CH3SOH —–> CH3SO3H
The product of these reactions is methyl sulphonic acid (CH3SO3H) and most of it persists in the ambient atmosphere though a relatively small amount may be oxidized through sulfur dioxide.
(b) Hydrogen sulphide: This gas in atmosphere is also attacked by OH radical as follows:
H2S + OH ——-> HS + H2O
The resulting bisulphide radical (HS) is oxidized through SO2 in a number of subsequent reactions. The SO2 can also be oxidized by OH and HO2 radicals:
SO2 + OH + M —–> HSO3 + M
SO2 + HO2 —–> SO3 + OH
Bisulfite radical (HSO3) and SO3 react with OH and water respectively to yield sulfuric acid which is the ultimate product of oxidation of atmospheric sulfur.
HSO3 + OH ———> H2SO4
SO3 + H2O ———-> H2SO4
(c) Carbon disulphide (CS2): This has been experimentally shown to be oxidized by OH radical yielding equal proportions of carbonyl sulphide and sulfur dioxide as final products. However, in atmosphere CS2 may not react with OH radical principally and its reactions with oxygen atoms may be more important.
2. REACTIONS WITH AMMONIA
Most of the atmospheric ammonia is removed through dissolution in liquid water in the atmosphere. However, ammonia is also attacked by OH radical though this reaction accounts for only a few percent of the ammonia removed from Earth’s atmosphere:
NH3 + OH ——> NH2 + H2O
Various subsequent reactions are possible:
NH2 + O ——> HNO + H
HNO + O2 —–> NO + HO2
The NO can be oxidized to NO2 which subsequently may react with OH radical to yield HNO3 and this is effectively removed from atmosphere through dissolution in rainwater.
NO2 + OH ——> HNO3
3. REACTION WITH CARBON MONOXIDE
Hydroxyl radical on reaction with carbon monoxide yields carbon dioxide and hydrogen radical.
CO + OH ———-> CO2 + H
4. REACTION WITH FORMALDEHYDE
Formaldehyde found in trace quantities and formed in various atmospheric reactions is oxidized by OH radical in the following manner:
HCHO + OH ——–> HCO + H2O
5. REACTION WITH METHANE
Methane is naturally emitted from earth’s surface. In the atmosphere, methane is oxidized by OH radical yielding methyl radical and water:
CH4 + OH ——–> CH3 + H2O
CH3 undergoes following reactions in the methane cycle in the atmosphere yielding CH3O2.
CH3 + O2 + M ——-> CH3O2 + M
CH3O2 reacts with hydroperoxy radical in the following manner:
CH3O2 + HO2 ——–> CH3COOH + O2
6. REACTION AMONG HYDROXYL HYDROPEROXY RADICALS
In the presence of some suitable molecular species (M), hydroxyl radicals may react with each other to for hydrogen peroxide:
OH + OH + M —— H2O2 + M
Hydroperoxy radical may be a more efficient route for the formation of hydrogen peroxide:
HO2 + HO2 + M —— H2O2 + M
H2O2 is highly water-soluble and a strong oxidizing agent so it probably plays an important role in oxidation processes within water droplets in the atmosphere.