Environmental Sciences Fair Project
What material, when burned, gives off the most black carbon particulates


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Project Information
Title: Determine what material, when commonly burned, gives off the most black carbon particulates
Subject: Environmental Sciences
Grade level: Middle School - Grades 7-9
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: Low
Awards:
2nd Place, 7th Physical Science, PCA Science Fair
3rd Place, Environmental Science, Lehigh Valley Sci. Fair
Affiliation: Phillipsburg Christian Academy
Year: 2002
Link: www.fellowshipch.org...
Background

Black carbon or BC is formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot. Black carbon warms the planet by absorbing heat in the atmosphere and by reducing albedo, the ability to reflect sunlight, when deposited on snow and ice. Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only several days to weeks, whereas CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of more than 100 years.

Black carbon is a potent climate forcing agent, estimated to be the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide (CO2). Because black carbon remains in the atmosphere only for a few weeks, reducing black carbon emissions may be the fastest means of slowing climate change in the near-term.

Black carbon is formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot. Black carbon warms the planet by absorbing heat in the atmosphere and by reducing albedo, the ability to reflect sunlight, when deposited on snow and ice. Black carbon stays in the atmosphere from several days to weeks, whereas CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of more than 100 years.

Fossil fuel and biofuel soot have significantly greater amounts of black carbon than climate-cooling aerosols and particulate matter, making reductions of these sources particularly powerful mitigation strategies. For example, emissions from the diesel engines and marine vessels contain higher levels of black carbon compared to other sources. Regulating black carbon emissions from diesel engines and marine vessels therefore presents a significant opportunity to reduce black carbon’s global warming impact

According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), “the presence of black carbon over highly reflective surfaces, such as snow and ice, or clouds, may cause a significant positive radiative forcing (the difference between the incoming radiation energy and the outgoing radiation energy at the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere).” The IPCC also notes that emissions from biomass burning, which usually have a negative forcing, have a positive forcing over snow fields in areas such as the Himalayas.

By Region: Developed countries were once the primary source of black carbon emissions, but this began to change in the 1950’s with the adoption of pollution control technologies in those countries. Whereas the U.S. emits about 21% of the world’s CO2, it emits 6.1% of the world’s soot. The Unites States and the European Union could further reduce their black carbon emissions by accelerating implementation of black carbon regulations that currently take effect in 2015 or 2020 and by supporting the adoption of pending International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations. Existing regulations also could be expanded to increase the use of clean diesel and clean coal technologies and to develop second-generation technologies.

Many countries have existing national laws to regulating black carbon emissions, including laws that address particulate emissions.

For more information (background, pictures, experiments and references): Black Carbon

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License)

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