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New formula for combating the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide
Date:4/2/2008

This release is available in German.

Halle/S. The cost of treating wastewater contaminated with nitrogen could be lowered in future. Soil scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have developed a new mathematical model which can help determine the optimum conditions for microbiological water treatment. Using the stable natural nitrogen isotope 15N, this mathematical model, which is the most accurate to date, can for the first time calculate exactly the quantities of dinitrogen (N2) produced by the complex biochemical treatment processes anammox and denitrification and the background levels in the atmosphere, according to the researchers writing in the specialist journal Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. This means that in future the effectiveness of such wastewater treatment plants can be significantly improved and emissions of the greenhouse gas N2O (a by-product of denitrification) can be avoided.

As well as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), which has been the subject of much public debate, the less well known nitrous oxide (N2O, also known as laughing gas) also plays a key role in climate change. As with CO2, a steep rise in atmospheric concentrations of nitrous oxide has been registered since the start of industrialisation. Although the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 1000 times higher than that of nitrous oxide, nitrous oxide is 300 times more powerful in terms of its greenhouse gas effect than carbon dioxide. In contrast with CO2, the increase in atmospheric N2O concentrations is due only in small part to the combustion of fossil fuels. By far the greatest proportion of the N2O released by humans results from the excessive use of nitrogenous nutrients (such as nitrate/NO3-), which
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Contact: Tilo Arnhol
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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