London, August 1: A tiny particle one thirtieth the width of a human hair could be driving pollution and climate change, researchers have claimed.
Harvard University scientists studied atmospheric particles, a highly lethal air pollutant which appears everywhere in the atmosphere, but is more common above cities.
The tiny particles play a key role in air pollution and climate change by providing a surface for chemical reactions and reflecting and absorbing radiation.
They also act as seed surfaces for water condensation and cloud formation.
Researchers discovered that these particles separate into distinct chemical compositions during their life-spans.
Depending on the composition, the rate of chemical reactions and the amount of light that the particles reflect and absorb will change over time.
This could impact how air becomes polluted and the processes behind climate change – the warming of the earth.
The team of American scientists who worked on the project hope it will open up new avenues to tackle air pollution, which is linked to heart and lung disease.
“We’ve confirmed experimentally that changes in relative humidity can separate the organic and inorganic material in individual atmospheric particles into distinct liquid phases, much like oil separates from water,” the Daily Mail quoted Allan Bertram, who worked on the report, as saying.
“Having two liquid phases rather than one can change the rates of chemical reactions on particles, may change the amount of light the particles reflect and absorb, and impact their ability to act as seeds for clouds.
“We need to understand as much as possible about the chemical composition, physical properties and interactions of atmospheric particles if we’re going to assess how they impact human health, regional weather patterns, and even global climate change,” Bertram added.
The study will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)