Posts Tagged volcano

Science Fair Volcanoes

Posted by on Saturday, 20 November, 2010

In elementary school, one of the first ways that the teacher demonstrated a chemical reaction was by creating a volcano. You just need to build a miniature mountain with a hollow top out of clay. Then, you pour some baking soda out of the box into the hole. Pour some vinegar on it, and the volcano erupts. Kids like watching this, and both baking soda and vinegar are safe enough to use in the kitchen.

This reaction isn’t just useful for demonstrating chemistry. Many household cleaners include ammonia, bleach, and other chemicals that are fairly harsh. Baking soda, like ammonia and bleach, is also basic, which is why it reacts with vinegar. However, baking soda itself is a much weaker base than ammonia or bleach, and won’t damage skin or eyes if it spills. Vinegar is a relatively weak acid, and the bottles of vinegar sold for household use are usually 5 percent vinegar and 95 percent water, so they are even more diluted.

Vinegar by itself can clean off dirt and grime. It’s possible to demonstrate this by dropping pennies in Tabasco sauce, since the acidic vinegar will melt away the crud on the pennies, leaving them shiny and new once again. This can improve the condition of coins in a coin collection. Vinegar will also help clean up a stain on the counter, or a spill on the floor.

The combination of vinegar and baking soda is a much more effective household product. The foam this produces can scrub away dirt and stains. Just be careful to use small quantities, since the reaction can release more foam than you would expect. Vinegar and baking soda are much cheaper than many other household cleaning products, and cause less environmental damage.

Do not mix stronger cleaning products, such as bleach or ammonia, with each other or with acids such as vinegar. The baking soda and vinegar reaction is extremely weak compared to most acid and base reactions. Mixing strong bases and strong acids can cause a fire or an explosion. Mixing bleach and ammonia with each other releases the chlorine in the bleach as chlorine gas, which is poisonous. Chlorine gas has a distinctive smell that anyone who visits a public pool will recognize.

Carbon Credits and the Icelandic Volcano

Posted by on Monday, 10 May, 2010

A volcanic eruption spewed out a huge amount of carbon into the atmosphere, and clogged the air with flakes of ash for several weeks. Flights are grounded because of the eruption, so planes cannot run their usual routes in Europe and connect travelers on the Atlantic coast to airports across the ocean. Surprisingly enough, the volcano eruption has another effect, on the airlines’ allocation of carbon credits from the European Union.

Since the volcano eruption grounded flights, airliners will fly less hours. According to the Environmental Leader, this will lead to increased carbon credit costs for airlines. The reason is that airlines are not currently covered by the mandatory European carbon credit exchange, which will affect them in 2012. This means they will have a lower baseline carbon emissions standard to use as a comparison in 2012.

The article doesn’t mention a huge disincentive here. This volcano forces airliners to fly less, leading them to appear like they used less energy, which is used in the regulatory calculations of the European Union. This suggests that airliners would gain an advantage by not attempting any form of carbon emissions reduction for their current flights, so they would have a higher base point to start from. Airliners even have an incentive to waste additional fuel now, since if flying less hours will raise their costs in two years, flying more hours now will give them targets that are much easier to meet in the future. This is extremely counterproductive. Since the Environmental Leader mentions that the airlines will be paying more than $3 billion for these credits each year, increasing in the future, an incentive to waste additional fuel and produce more emissions in the next two years which will lower airliners’ future costs needs to be addressed. Fortunately, according to Business Green, the expected effect of the volcanic eruptions so far is two percent of the total carbon emissions for the year, not a huge factor by itself. This article further mentions that the flight reductions caused by the international recession further decrease flights, adding an additional factor that lowers the baseline energy usage of the airliners.