Not so Classical Gas

SF5CF3 — otherwise known as triflouromethyl sulfur pentaflouride, is 18,000 times more effective as a heat trapper than carbon dioxide, and has an estimated lifetime of 1,000 years. The good news…it’s pretty rare. The bad news, the concentration apparently is growing. More good news: control of this greenhouse gas might come down to a solvable engineering problem.  So much of today’s environmental concerns can be addressed with some good old-fashioned R&D. We actually had that once upon a time, R&D that is, before bean counters and shareholder dividends became the Nutcrackers and Sugar Plum Fairies of American engineering. In fact, it kind of got us in the mess we’re in. It can get us out, too, so peeps with foundations and money: put the word out!

Used in ground water analyses , SF5CF3 has a dating range from 1975 to modern; the atmospheric concentration in North American air has increased from the detection limit of 0.005 parts per trillion by volume (pptv) to the 2006 concentration of about 0.16 pptv. No evidence has been found for degradation of SF5CF3 in laboratory anaerobic systems, or of a terrigenic source.

It has been found in air compressed under layers of Antarctic snow, and speculation remains open on whether it is a breakdown product of a gas used to insulate high voltage equipment.

(Sturges et al. (2000) as cited at “found” link, speculate that the former may originate as a breakdown product of the latter in high-voltage equipment. While the current radiative forcing of SF5CF3 may be minor, the high growth rate and long atmospheric residence time suggest that the greenhouse significance of this gas could increase markedly in the future. Conversely, SF5CF3 appears not to have any natural sources, so control might be feasible, once the sources are identified.)


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