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The escape of carbon dioxide from the Andernach geyser. Credit: I. Prokhorov.
For the first time, it is now possible to measure, simultaneously and with extreme precision, four rare molecular variants of carbon dioxide (CO2) using a novel laser instrument. It is thus able to measure the temperature during the formation of CO2-binding carbonates and carbonaceous fossils completely independently of other parameters. As a new type of geothermometer, the laser-spectroscopy-based measurement device is significant for scientific disciplines investigating, for example, climatic conditions in Earth's history. It was developed by a German-French research team, with substantial contributions from environmental physicists at Heidelberg University.
Science - Distribution - Building - Blocks - Carbon
Science is studying the distribution of atomic building blocks of carbon dioxide to develop a better understanding of key geochemical and biogeochemical cycles as well as climatic processes on our planet. Knowledge about glacial cold and interglacial warm phases in Earth's history is largely based on this methodology. The analysis of the isotopic distribution of carbon dioxide is also used for carbonates in which CO2 is mineralised. A new approach involves examining the isotopic distribution between different variants of the same molecule, especially rare molecular variants.
Only in recent years has it become possible to measure the atomic composition of CO2 and carbonate using high-precision mass spectroscopy, such that the formation temperature of the carbonate can be directly inferred from the relative abundance at which multiple variants of a molecule occur. In thermodynamic equilibrium, the distribution of isotopes between the different variants depends solely on temperature and is not influenced by other parameters. "This method has therefore proven to be a particularly robust and unique physical...
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