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article imageSherwood Rowland, ozone defender, has died

By Tim Sandle     Mar 13, 2012 in Environment
Sherwood Rowland, the Nobel prize winner, who demonstrated that the ozone layer could be destroyed by chemical pollutants, has died aged 84.
The New York Times has reported that the chemist Frank Sherwood Rowland has died aged 84. Sherwood Rowland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 as the result of his work on the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer.
The Science Insider notes that as long ago as 1974, Sherwood Rowland wrote a paper showing that the chlorine atoms released from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) compounds, which were, at the time, commonly used as refrigerants, cleaning solvents, and in aerosol spray, were capable of causing a chain reaction in the atmosphere. The result of this reaction was the destruction of ozone molecules. The research showed that a single chlorine atom was capable of destroying as many as 100,000 ozone molecules. Furthermore, the chlorine could remain in at atmosphere for decades.
CFCs and other contributory substances are referred to as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). As the ozone layer prevents the most harmful ultraviolet light from passing through the Earth's atmosphere, then decreases in ozone have become a worldwide concern. This concern was triggered by Sherwood Rowland's findings and his research became an important step for the environment movement.
The research led to the eventual legislation which banned many CFCs (for example in the USA in 1978), as well as important treaties like the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which aimed to protect the loss of ozone above Antarctica.
As well as the Nobel prize, Rowland also received ACS Richard Tolman Medal 1976, APS Leo Szilard Award 1979, Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement 1983 (shared with Mario J. Molina), Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry 1993, AGU Roger Revelle Medal 1994 and WCC Albert Einstein World Award of Science 1994.
More about Ozone, Ozone layer, CFCs, Environment
 
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