A recent study by NASA has confirmed the recovery of the ozone layer due to the absence of chlorine from Chlorofluorocarbon(CFC) in the atmosphere.

Highlights of the study:

The study has confirmed the phenomenon by mapping the chemical composition of the atmosphere. The study revealed that chlorine levels declined by 0.8% each year between 2005 and 2016 and speculates that it could be the effect of the worldwide ban on the use of CFC. Previous research had hinted at the decrease in the depletion of ozone layer. Scientists believe that the ozone layer would fully recover by 2080.

What is ozone layer?

A layer of ozone envelops the Earth and keeps damaging ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from reaching living things on the planet’s surface. The ozone layer exists mainly in the stratosphere, a layer of the atmosphere that reaches from 10 to 50 kilometers (about 6 to 30 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

What is ozone hole?

The ozone hole is a region of depleted layers of ozone above the Antarctic region, whose creation is linked to increased cases of skin cancer.

Factors responsible for the depletion of ozone:

Depletion of ozone is due to many factors, the most dominant of which is the release of chlorine from CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) which destroys the ozone. CFCs are released by products such as hairsprays, old refrigerators etc.

What are CFCs?

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, are compounds made up of combinations of the elements chlorine, fluorine and carbon; aerosols, refrigerants and foams contain CFCs. When these CFCs enter the air, they rise up into the atmosphere to meet up with and destroy ozone molecules. First used in 1928, CFCs have since become more common as various other CFC compounds were created. Some of the better-known CFCs are the Freon compounds, which were used as cooling ingredients in refrigerators and air conditioners. CFCs have lifetimes from 50 to 100 years.

How CFCs destroy the ozone?

Once in the atmosphere, CFCs drift slowly upward to the stratosphere, where they are broken up by ultraviolet radiation, releasing the chlorine that catalytically destroys ozone. The process is as follows:

  • UV radiation breaks off a chlorine atom from a CFC molecule.
  • The chlorine atom attacks an ozone molecule (O3), breaking it apart and destroying the ozone.
  • The result is an ordinary oxygen molecule (O2) and a chlorine monoxide molecule (ClO).
  • The chlorine monoxide molecule (ClO) is attacked by a free oxygen atom releasing the chlorine atom and forming an ordinary oxygen molecule (O2).
  • The chlorine atom is now free to attack and destroy another ozone molecule (O3). One chlorine atom can repeat this destructive cycle thousands of times.

Applications of CFCs:

CFCs have some interesting properties which can be fully exploited; therefore there are plenty of uses for these molecules. CFCs are not flammable; therefore they were used as propellants that would push other molecules out of the aerosol sprays. For the same reason CFCs were used to form foamed plastics. Also low flammability enabled people to use these molecules to dry clean hot electronic components of devices such as air conditioning.

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