Calculating Carbon Dioxide Levels in 19th Century Air

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In summary, the carbon dioxide levels of the air were measured in various chemical ways in the 19th century. Several methods required drying of the air first, which could be accomplished by leading the air through sulphur acid (H2SO4). However, it appears that CO2 also dissolves partly in that process. Today, somebody who is interested in measuring CO2 levels in the air would need to find information on CO2 solubility in H2SO4. This would be difficult to find, as the topic was not indexed in "systems: x + y" in those days. However, the measurements would be significant, as they would provide information on how to control CO2 levels for industrial applications.
  • #1
Andre
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In the good old days of the 19th century, carbon dioxide levels of the air were measured in various chemical ways. Several methods required drying of the air first. This could be accomplished by leading the air through sulphur acid (H2SO4). However it appears that CO2 also dissolves partly in that process.

Now, I'm sure that there are methods of estimating the amount of CO2 that dissolves this way and consequently, the magnitude of the induced error, something with a Bunsen adsorption coefficients. But I'm afraid I did not pay enough attention in high school, some millenium or so ago.

Anybody, who can help me out?
 
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  • #2
Everything is soluble in everything else. How soluble? You're stuck with measuring. Volume of air sample? Volume of acid used to dry the air sample? Did they just pump air through the acid until it reached steady state with the exception of water loss?
 
  • #3
Well let's say that they pumped N moles or air through a volume V of acid with an initial CO2 partial pressure of p1 at a termperature T and a total pressure P. What would be the remaining CO2 partial pressure p2? Would the difference between p1 and p2 be significant or negliglible?
 
  • #4
Andre said:
Well let's say that they pumped N moles or air through a volume V of acid with an initial CO2 partial pressure of p1 at a termperature T and a total pressure P. What would be the remaining CO2 partial pressure p2? Would the difference between p1 and p2 be significant or negliglible?

Still not constrained: are you equilibrating "dN" at a time with "V," or "N" all at once with "V?" You see the difference? First case, you can take the tag end of "N" for analysis, and the difference can be driven to a limit of 0 regardless of solubility; second case, the difference is a function of only the solubility.

Measurements on CO2 solubility in H2SO4? Gotta be in the literature somewhere --- sort of thing people would have done between the wars. Finding it? CA wasn't indexing "systems: x + y" in those days --- going to be a little tough. Significant? No --- there'd be a ton of information on how to control it for all the industrial applications.

Quick means to estimate? Measured amount of baking soda in measured amount of (dilute --- let's do worst case) sulfuric acid, and measure the evolved gas volume --- it comes up more than 10% less than theoretical, we're going to have to look a little more closely.
 

Related to Calculating Carbon Dioxide Levels in 19th Century Air

1. How do scientists calculate the carbon dioxide levels in 19th century air?

Scientists use various methods to calculate carbon dioxide levels in 19th century air, including analyzing air bubbles trapped in ice cores, measuring the carbon isotope ratio in tree rings, and examining historical records of industrial activity.

2. Why is it important to calculate carbon dioxide levels in 19th century air?

Understanding the levels of carbon dioxide in the 19th century can provide valuable information about human impact on the Earth's atmosphere and help predict future climate change. It can also provide insight into the effects of industrialization and the growth of human population.

3. How accurate are the calculations of carbon dioxide levels in 19th century air?

The accuracy of the calculations depends on the method used and the quality of the data. Ice core samples and tree ring analysis have been shown to be highly accurate, while historical records may have some margin of error due to incomplete data or human error.

4. What were the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the 19th century?

The main sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the 19th century were the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, as well as deforestation and land use change. Industrialization and the growth of transportation also contributed to the increase in carbon dioxide levels.

5. How have carbon dioxide levels in 19th century air changed over time?

Carbon dioxide levels in 19th century air have steadily increased since the Industrial Revolution. Before the 19th century, levels remained relatively stable for thousands of years. However, since the 19th century, there has been a significant and continuous rise in carbon dioxide levels due to human activities.

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