What are the Solutions for Acid Rain?
Acid Rain is rain that has been made acidic by certain types of pollutant with a pH level of less than 5.6 (EPA). It exist in 2 ways - either in wet deposition or dry deposition. Wet decomposition is when acidic chemicals in the air dissolve in wet condition and fall to the ground through rain, fog or snow. However, dry decomposition occurs in dry weather where the gases and dust become acidic and stick to the ground, buildings, homes and statue (Briney).
The causes of acid rain can be due to environment factors such as erupting volcanoes and rotting vegetation that released a certain types of chemicals. However, the major cause of acid rain is still mainly on human activities; especially the combustion of fossil fuels. Acid Rain is formed by a chemical reaction that begins when chemical gases like sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are released into the air. These substances can rise very high into the atmosphere, where they mix and react with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form various , known as acid rain (EPA).
The effects of acid rain decomposition has impact the environment, social life of the community and the economics of the country. In affect to the environment, acid rain can weaken a tree by damaging their leaves, limiting their nutrient intake by dissolving the nutrients and microorganism in the soil and washes them away before the trees could use them to grow (EPA). The acid rain will reduce the life span of the aquatic animals and plants; as when the acid rain drains into rivers and lakes it will lower the pH of the water. Many forms of water life are sensitive to the pH of the water and cannot survive if it is too acidic. (Riley).
In a social perspective, acid rain can also affect our health. As the sulfate and nitrate particulates from the dry decomposition can cause asthma, bornchitis problem and weakens the respiratory system (Dowdey). Apart from that, it also degrades the visibility; which can increase the chances of accidents, leading to injuries and death (Conserve- Energy- Future); and it also affects our enjoyment of national parks. Hence, this is affecting the social life of the people. Because when people have a poor health condition, they won’t likely to enjoy life more often as they are limited to join certain activities.
Last but not least, the economics of the country is also greatly affected. As the acid deposition can destroy architecture and infrastructure because of its ability to corrode metals like bronze. It will also cause the deterioration of paints and stones such as the marble and limestone.These effects significantly reduce the societal value of buildings, bridges, cultural objects such as statues and monuments, and cars (EPA). It also destroy old heritage building. Hence, it is affecting the economic of a country, because when the societal value of the architecture are reduced; then there would be lesser tourist visiting the countries which led to a higher unemployment rate among the tourism industry and the country won’t be able to generate more income.
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The sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides is produced in powerplants/ smokestacks by the burn of fossil fuels such as coal to generate electricity, while sulfur is present in coal as an impurity and it reacts with the air when coal is being burned to produce sulfur dioxide (SO2). In contrast, nitrogen oxides are formed when any of the fossil fuels are burned.
Apart from reducing the use of transportation by car-pooling, increase the use of public transportation and using the electricity and lights efficiently only when it’s needed. There are more advanced technology invented to prevent the problem with acid rain. Below are the solution to prevent acid rain:
Scrubbers is a device used to removed harmful pollutants from exhaust gas before they are released to the atmosphere (wisegeek). The exhaust gas will pass through the scrubber where a spray mixture of limestone and water reacts with the SO2. At last, the clean gas or the water vapour will be released to the atmosphere. The reaction will enables the SO2 to be removed before it’s released into the atmosphere. As when SO2 combines with limestone, it will form calcium sulfate; also known as gypsum. Calcium sulfate can be recycled and reused in the manufacturing of wallboard and cement, and as a soil amendment in agricultural applications. The unused byproducts are properly disposed of in approved landfills.
Figure 1: A diagram of how a scrubber works.
Catalytic Converter is a device between the engine and the tailpipe. It uses catalyst to convert the 3 harmful compounds in a car exhaust to harmless compound. The three harmful compounds are hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOX). The catalyst is a combination of platinum (Pt), palladium (Pd), and rhodium (Rh). These metals coat onto a ceramic honeycomb contained within a metal casing that is attached to the exhaust pipe. The metals will react with the exhaust to eliminate certain harmful emissions. One important reaction in the catalytic converter is given in the equation: (pollutants) 2CO + 2NO → 2CO2 + N2 (relatively harmless gas). Even though the exhaust pass through the tube at high velocity, the molecules that coat the ceramics are able to react in milliseconds and hang on to the pollutant until it's converted to something less harmful like Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide or water vapor. Reduction and oxidation reaction occurs inside the device. The reaction is speed up in the catalytic converter by the high temperature from burning of the fuel and the small particle size of catalyst provides a large surface area for reaction to take place faster. Carbon monoxide (CO) is converted to carbon dioxide (CO2). Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are broken down into nitrogen gas (N2) and oxygen gas (O2). Lastly, hydrocarbons (HC) are converted into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O).
Figure 2: A diagram of how a catalytic converter works.
However, with its useful functions and its great ability to reduce the problem with acid rain. It has also a certain limitation for the use of scrubbers and catalytic converter. Such that the scrubber requires high maintanence cost as the disposal of the waste sludge can be very expensive and the horsepower requires is also certainly high. Apart from that, it also has high potential for corrosion problem (globalspec). As for the catalytic converter, it is expensive to install as the catalyst in the catalytic converter is highly precious metals and hence they are expensive. Another disadvantage is that the end products of the catalytic convertion is CO2. It has contributes to an increase of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere bringing many harmful effects to the environment such as increasing the acidity of natural water bodies and increased melting of polar ice due to global warming (Shah).
However, many things has been done to avoid and decrease the limitations of the instruments. The devices mentioned above were all commonly used in different parts of the world. It has been required for over 20 years in the United State and it is also important to keep them working properly in their country. Many industrial companies are also using scrubber to reduce the emission of sulphur. One of it is the Carnival Corp. (CCL), the world’s largest cruise operator had installed scrubber on its ship to cut pollutants that can harm the human’s lung (Drajem).
In my own opinion, these devices that are used to prevent acid rain has bring an impact to the environment dramatically. It has decrease the amount of pollution that will cause acid rain and harm to the human’s lung. This can be proof by the statistical representation below of the effectiveness of catalytic converters. It shows that without a catalyst the amount of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides released to the atmosphere are higher compare to the presence of a catalyst. Basically, no catalyst means an absence of catalytic converters and presence of catalyst refers to the presence of catalytic converter. Thus, it is proven that an absence of catalytic converter has produce more harmful pollution compare to the presence of catalytic converter. Based on my opinion, I can conclude that the presence of these devices can reduce the amount of pollution released and hence prevent acid rain and benefit the environment.
Figure 3: A statistic representation of the effectiveness
of catalytic converters.
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