Scientists blend standard air


The first ever fully synthetic standard air, which can be used as a reference to calibrate atmospheric monitoring equipment, has been produced by researchers in the UK.

Scientists tracking levels of greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide need a primary reference standard to compare their measurements to, but at the moment the only available standards for these gases come from air samples collected at the top of Niwot Ridge mountain in Colorado, which are stored at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Demand for standards is rising as the number of atmospheric measurements taken around the world increases, so Paul Brewer and colleagues at the National Physical Laboratory have blended synthetic air identical in composition to the samples held by the NOAA in the lab. They used high accuracy gravimetry – essentially weighing the different gas components in the cylinder – to mix their standards, ensuring the correct isotopic composition of carbon dioxide by using a blend of carbon-12 and carbon-13 enriched carbon dioxide. The techniques they used can be applied elsewhere, so labs around the world need not rely on samples from remote locations.

References

P J Brewer et al, Anal. Chem., 2014, DOI: 10.1021/ac403982m


Related Content

Chasing the wave

22 December 2011 Premium contentFeature

news image

With the authorities, medics and analytical chemists struggling to break the flow of new legal highs, the bad guys appear to ...

Chemistry World podcast - November 2013

4 November 2013 Podcast | Monthly

news image

Michelle Francl helps us tackle chemophobia, and we discover the history, art and science of alloys with David Dye

Most Read

Sun rises on new solar route to hydrogen

27 February 2015 Research

news image

Photocatalyst has solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 2% and points way to cheap production of the gas

Chemists zinc up ‘aromatic’ metal cubes

2 March 2015 Research

news image

Metal-organic clusters share electrons between eight covalently linked metal atoms

Most Commented

Sun rises on new solar route to hydrogen

27 February 2015 Research

news image

Photocatalyst has solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 2% and points way to cheap production of the gas

Hepatitis C drug patent challenged in Europe

19 February 2015 Business

news image

Campaign group says Gilead’s expensive blockbuster sofosbuvir is not innovative enough to warrant a patent