Engineers cook up a new way to tackle CO2: Make baking soda


acidification: A process that lowers the pH of a solution. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it triggers chemical reactions that create carbonic acid.

alkaline: An adjective that describes a chemical that produces hydroxide ions (OH-) in a solution. These solutions are also referred to as basic — as in the opposite of acidic — and have a pH above 7.

ammonia: A colorless gas with a nasty smell. Ammonia is a compound made from the elements nitrogen and hydrogen. It is used to make food and applied to farm fields as a fertilizer. Secreted by the kidneys, ammonia gives urine its characteristic odor. The chemical also occurs in the atmosphere and throughout the universe.

arsenic: A highly poisonous metallic element. It occurs in three chemically different forms, which also vary by color (yellow, black and gray). The brittle, crystalline (gray) form is the most common. Some manufacturers tap its toxicity by adding it to insecticides.

Atlantic: One of the world’s five oceans, it is second in size only to the Pacific. It separates Europe and Africa to the east from North and South America to the west.

atmosphere: The envelope of gases surrounding Earth, another planet or a moon.

carbon: A chemical element that is the physical basis of all life on Earth. (in climate studies) The term carbon sometimes will be used almost interchangeably with carbon dioxide to connote the potential impacts that some action, product, policy or process may have on long-term atmospheric warming.

carbon dioxide: (or CO2) A colorless, odorless gas produced by all animals when the oxygen they inhale reacts with the carbon-rich foods that they’ve eaten. Carbon dioxide also is released when organic matter burns (including fossil fuels like oil or gas). Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen during photosynthesis, the process they use to make their own food.

chemistry: The field of science that deals with the composition, structure and properties of substances and how they interact. Scientists use this knowledge to study unfamiliar substances, to reproduce large quantities of useful substances or to design and create new and useful substances. (about compounds) Chemistry also is used as a term to refer to the recipe of a compound, the way it’s produced or some of its properties. People who work in this field are known as chemists. (in social science) A term for the ability of people to cooperate, get along and enjoy each other’s company.

climate change: Long-term, significant change in the climate of Earth. It can happen naturally or in response to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests.

compound: (often used as a synonym for chemical) A compound is a substance formed when two or more chemical elements unite (bond) in fixed proportions. For example, water is a compound made of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. Its chemical symbol is H2O.

contaminant: Pollutant; a chemical, biological or other substance that is unwanted or unnatural in an environment (such as water, soil, air, the body or food). Some contaminants may be harmful in the amounts at which they occur or if they are allowed to build up in the body or environment over time.

copper: A metallic chemical element in the same family as silver and gold. Because it is a good conductor of electricity, it is widely used in electronic devices.

develop: To emerge or to make come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing. (

dissolve: To turn a solid into a liquid and disperse it into that starting liquid. (For instance, sugar or salt crystals, which are solids, will dissolve into water. Now the crystals are gone and the solution is a fully dispersed mix of the liquid form of the sugar or salt in water.)

ecological: An adjective that refers to a branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. A scientist who works in this field is called an ecologist.

engineer: A person who uses science and math to solve problems. As a verb, to engineer means to design a device, material or process that will solve some problem or unmet need.

filter: (n.) Something that allows some materials to pass through but not others, based on their size or some other feature. (v.) The process of screening some things out on the basis of traits such as size, density, electric charge. (in physics) A screen, plate or layer of a substance that absorbs light or other radiation or selectively prevents the transmission of some of its components.

Himalayas: A mountain system in Asia that divides the Tibetan Plateau to its north from the plains of India to the south. Containing some of the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayas include more than 100 that rise at least 7,300 meters (24,000 feet) above sea level. The tallest is known as Mount Everest.

hydrochloric acid: A strong (potent) and corrosive acid formed when hydrogen chloride gas dissolves into water. The human gut produces a dilute solution of this to break down foods.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: , or IPCC. This international group keeps tabs on the newest published research on climate and on how ecosystems are responding to it. The United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization jointly created the IPCC in 1988. Their aim was to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and social impacts.

lye: The common name for a solution of sodium hydroxide. Lye is often mixed with vegetable oils or animal fats and other ingredients to make solid bars of soap.

pandemic: An outbreak of disease that affects a large proportion of the population across much or most of the world.

power plant: An industrial facility for generating electricity.

recall: To remember..

sodium bicarbonate: Also known as baking soda, this white, chemical powder occurs naturally. Its formula is NaHCO3. It also has been used as a natural product to extinguish small electrical and grease fires. When ingested, it can help settle acid stomachs. Indeed, it is the main ingredient of many antacids sold in grocery stores.

sodium hydroxide: A chemical that is used in the production of paper and soap. It is used to make solutions more basic (alkaline).

strategy: A thoughtful and clever plan for achieving some difficult or challenging goal.

system: A network of parts that together work to achieve some function. For instance, the blood, vessels and heart are primary components of the human body’s circulatory system. Similarly, trains, platforms, tracks, roadway signals and overpasses are among the potential components of a nation’s railway system. System can even be applied to the processes or ideas that are part of some method or ordered set of procedures for getting a task done.

technology: The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.


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