MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: Can the Ozone layer be replaced with an artificial layer

Date: Mon Nov 16 13:57:07 1998
Posted By: Jason Goodman, Graduate Student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 909598988.En

Ozone (O3) protects the earth's surface from dangerous ultraviolet radiation. When ultraviolet light strikes ozone, it breaks up into two pieces and absorbs the light. These pieces eventually reconnect. However, some chemicals, especially chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) can break down ozone, destroying it.

I don't know of anything but ozone which could do what ozone does. If we want to make an artifical ozone layer, we'll have to use real ozone, no substitutes. Ozone is a very hazardous material in bulk: it is poisonous, and in liquid form will explode if you bump its container.

There are very roughly 2 billion tons of ozone in the atmosphere. This is a huge amount: you'd need 20 million 747 jet airplanes to carry this much ozone up to the stratosphere -- this is impossible, even ignoring the serious problems with producing, storing, and delivering this much ozone.

It is probably impossible for humans to create an artifical ozone layer: the best we can do is try to stop the CFCs which destroy ozone from reaching the ozone layer. The simplest way to do this is to stop using CFCs. However, many CFCs will stay in the atmosphere for a century after we stop producing them. Various methods have been proposed to "clean" the atmosphere of CFCs. These include:

I got the information on CFC mitigation strategies from one of my favorite books: Terraforming, by Martyn Fogg.

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