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The Realities of Acid Rain - Research Paper Example

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Acid precipitation can take many forms including rainfall, snow and particulate vapor collections of even more acidic waterThis type of material can also be deposited in dry forms as dust-like particles which settle and coat objects …
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The Realities of Acid Rain
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Download file to see previous pages The more acidic the compound the more likely that deposits will result in damage to property and conditions dangerous for organic life forms. Natural rainfall has a pH of 7, but the further pH levels drop below that number the more potentially harmful it will be for the environment (Eubanks, p.240). The pH level present is directly associated with the presence of sulfate oxides (SOx), nitrate oxides (NOx), and the manner in which they dictate the release of hydrogen ions. Though neither oxide type contains hydrogen, they can act as an acid anhydride, wherein an acid is generated by chemical reaction subsequent to dissolution in water. The measure of the difference between the cumulative increases these oxides create in hydrogen ion concentration and hydroxide ionic content determines the pH level and thus the degree of acidity (Casiday & Frey, n.p.). Incidents of acid rain have been proven to have a direct relationship with the burning of fossil fuels, more specifically the burning of coal as an energy source. A complicated substance, coal can have a dynamic configuration of elements and is largely used as fuel for the production of electricity in power plants. It is signified by an approximate chemical value of C135H96O9NS, though the actual concentration of each element varies according to the organic content present during the formation process (Eubanks, p.167). The variance in any given coal type determines the energy output of a coal type produced during combustion. While these attributes are affected by a myriad of conditions and components, there are certain characteristics which remain common to all coal types. For one thing, coal is a superior fuel type of wood due the incredibly high carbon concentration paired with low levels of oxygen and water. However, when used as fuel source, the rapid oxidation which occurs during combustion releases several pollutants into the atmosphere including nitrogen and sulfur oxides (Greenpeace.org, n.p.). The atmosphere is composed of numerous compounds and elements in gaseous and particulate forms and when nitrogen and sulfur oxides are released as fossil fuel emissions they become integrated into the mixture and the natural processes and cycles therein. IN the water cycle water vapor present in the atmosphere interacts with other gases, particles, and form precipitations which is then deposited on the surface of the Earth and into the oceans. When excess sulfur oxides are introduced into the atmosphere, the sulfur oxides SO2 and SO3, which are measured in grams reacts with water vapor, measured in liters: SO2 + H2O ? H2SO3 SO3 + H2O ? H2SO4 This reaction ultimately results in the formation of sulfurous and sulfuric acids, respectively(Cassiday & Frey, n.p.). Nitrogen oxides require the presence of oxygen to create a chemical reaction as well as water vapor, the second most plentiful gaseous component of the atmosphere, the vapor and oxides having the same scale of measurement as during the previous formulas: 4 NO2 + 2 H2O + O2 ? 4 HNO3 This chemical reaction produces nitric acid. Though nitric, sulfurous, and sulfuric acids to do contain hydrogen, when introduced to water molecules (and oxygen as regards nitrogen oxides) they behave as acid anhydrates, stimulating the release of hydrogen and hydroxide ions which dictate the levels of acidity in any given liquid substance. Once these reactions have taken place, the new acidic compounds are distributed through acidic precipitation as rain, hail, or snow, and may also combine and be deposited on surfaces in particulate form. According to the level of acidity present in such deposits there is a decidedly negative effect on objects and organic life ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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