2 gas and nitrous oxide.
Yea ... and?
Nitrous oxide is significant in that it plays a major role in the destruction of stratospheric ozone (the ozone layer) and also contributes to global warming. This remainder of this page will focus on the former.
Nitrous oxide and the ozone layer
Nitrous oxide is a relatively inert gas and thus is able to float through the troposphere without being destroyed by other atmospheric gases. Once the gas reaches the stratosphere, it reacts with excited oxygen (O), a very unstable molecule.
N2O + O (excited) ---> 2NO
Nitric oxide (NO), a chemical known to react with ozone, is produced by this reaction. Nitric oxide then reactions in equilibrium with the available ozone and ozygen:
NO + O3 <---> NO2 + O2
90% of the earth's atmospheric ozone is contained in the stratosphere, which explains why this equilibrium reaction tends towards the destruction of ozone rather than its production. Nitrous oxide is crucial in this decomposition process because nitric oxide by itself will never reach the stratosphere - nitric oxide will react with other tropospheric gases before it reaches the ozone layer.
The Ozone Layer
Atmospheric Science and the Nobel Prize
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Making science homepages isn't something I normally do, so don't immediately think of me as the nerdy type. This is a project for my Adv. Chem class at New Horizons Governor's School for Math and Science ... email my teacher if you're interested at firstname.lastname@example.org (but be quick because she's leaving next year!!! :( ). Thanx!
Jeff R. K. Hartline