Unveiling Nature’s Secret: How Common Rocks Seed Clouds The Astonishing Connection Between Feldspar, Water, and Climate Change Revealed
We now have insight into why the common rock mineral feldspar is adept at influencing cloud formation under specific conditions. The mechanism behind this process, however, has remained unclear until new research provided an explanation.
Previous studies have established that feldspar, a mineral constituting half of Earth’s crust and present on other planets, attracts water molecules, making it an excellent nucleation seed for vapor.
In the recent research conducted by a team from the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wein) in Austria, the mystery was unraveled using a highly sensitive atomic force microscope. Physicist Giada Franceschi from TU Wein explained, “We placed a piece of feldspar in the microscope’s vacuum chamber and split it in half to obtain a pristine and clean surface. We were puzzled by the results: the images of the surface looked different from what common theories had predicted.”
The ultra-high resolution images revealed a unique geometry on the feldspar surface, attributed to tiny pockets of water known as inclusions. Upon splitting the rock, a small amount of water vapor was released from these pockets, reattaching to the surface.
This reattachment, coupled with the energy released during the rock splitting, caused water molecules to break apart, forming hydroxyl groups (OH) – single oxygen and hydrogen atoms linked together. These hydroxyl groups play a crucial role in the strong attraction between water and feldspar, as confirmed by computer simulations of the chemical reactions.
Physicist Ulrike Diebold from TU Wein stated, “The bond is established very easily and quickly, and it is also very stable. To remove the hydroxyl layer from feldspar, one would have to heat it to a high temperature.”
Feldspar is significant for Earth’s carbon and potassium cycles, as well as the water cycle. Gaining a deeper understanding of its interactions with other elements contributes to our knowledge of these cycles.
In the context of cloud formation, comprehending how climate change will impact the atmosphere and clouds is crucial. This study provides valuable insights into this aspect, resolving one of the mysteries surrounding feldspar that had left researchers perplexed. Previous hypotheses had explored the effects of potassium atoms in the rock and defects in its crystal structure.
Diebold emphasized, “Researchers were considering several ideas why feldspar is such an effective nucleation seed.
Source: Unveiling Nature’s Secret: How Common Rocks Seed Clouds – The Astonishing Connection Between Feldspar, Water, and Climate Change Revealed!