greenhouse gases

In a recently published issue of Geophysical Research Letters, scientists from the University of Toronto have identified a new chemical present in the atmosphere that appears to be a long living greenhouse gas. This new chemical--perfluorotributylamine, or PFTBA-- has broken all other records of any other chemical present in the atmosphere in terms of its potential to affect the climate.

PFTBA is the most radiatively-efficient chemical found in our atmosphere to date. Radiative efficiency is a term used to describe how effectively a molecule can affect the climate. Using the value of a molecules radiativity, it is then multiplied by the concentration of the atmosphere to determine the total climate impact. In the case of PFTBA, the numbers are terrifying.

As we know, different molecules last for different amount of time within the atmosphere before dissipating. PFTBA is an extremely long living molecule. It was calculated by scientists at the University of Toronto that over a 100 year span, one PFTBA molecule has the equivalent climate impact as 7,100 CO2 molecules which gives this new molecule high global warming potential.

So where does PFTBA come from? It is not a naturally occurring atmospheric molecule; it is one that is produced by human progress. It has been in use since the mid-20th century, mostly used in the construction of electrical equipment. PFTBA is used in thermally and chemically stable liquids as heat transfer agents. The primary example would be the thermo-conductive liquid used to attach heat sinks in computers to the CPU. Currently, there are no known processes that can remove or destroy these molecules from the lower atmosphere. It takes hundreds for years for one molecule to rise into the upper atmosphere levels where it is then destroyed.

University of Toronto Study