Monday, January 16, 2006

Guidance from my home Lab.

I have had the chance to chat with some of my friends back home, they are also my lab mates, to get some information on some analysis techniques down here. They answered my questions swiftly and correctly, thank you Jordan and Emily. In the process of gaining this much needed info I ask Emily what she thinks I could do to try and interest some people to continue reading my fading blog. She told me that it would be a good idea to just tell what I am doing on a daily basis and to get some background on the other projects that are being conducted here. So I am going to do just that. I need a little time to get a better idea on what the BIRDERS, BUGGERS, PHYTOS, and the KRILLERS are actually doing out there, but I will try and fill these pages with some cool stuff about what is being done here. Maybe there is something down here that you might want to do.

I have finally had the chance to run a Photolysis experiment. My personal focus on being down here in the Antarctic Peninsula was to study the effects of solar radiation on DMS. Although I am here to run analysis on many other aspects of the organic sulfur cycle a major portion of this cycle has been found to rely on my area of focus. What is photolysis you ask? This is a molecular breakdown of a substance that occurs when a photon bombards it. Photolysis is observed in daily life through the lose of color in carpet in front of the sunny window or fading of the upholstery in the car. The sun can also cause the holes that seem to just appear in the deck umbrella and can cause a plastic chair to collapse under you. The sun has the power to break down color and the actual structure of cloth fibers; it will weaken plastic and break down the integrity of many materials. The sun plays a very large role in chemistry, not to mention the huge role it plays in the breakdown of simple molecules found in the surface waters of the ocean.

The sun plays such and important role in the cycling of chemicals from the oceans due to the huge area that they cover, totaling somewhere around 75% of the surface of the Earth. This gigantic area is continuously bombarded by solar radiation and many organic compounds are being broken down and recycled to be used for another purpose. In the case of the Sulfur that we are interested in, DMS (dimethylsulfide), it is broken down into Sulfate molecules and is returned to the atmosphere. Sulfate in the atmosphere will help form water droplets and then form clouds and eventually the sulfur will be returned to the Earth. Turning into sulfate aerosols is not the only pathway that a photolized DMS molecule will take; this is a large part of my studies.

I will tell more about how the experiment was run and what it shows us tomorrow, right now it is time for bed.

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