Yale scientists have discovered a way to convert stockpiles of the banned chemical that eats away at the Earth’s ozone layer into salt and an ingredient used in toothpaste.
In today’s issue of the journal Science, professor Robert H. Crabtree and graduate student Juan Burdeniuc describe how they used a chemical found in rhubarb leaves to harmlessly break down Freon and other chlorofluorocarbons.
Freon, widely used in automobile air conditioners, and other CFCs, including refrigerants, solvents and cleaning agents, have been linked to the shrinking of the ozone layer.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Mario Molina, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry last year with two colleagues for demonstrating that CFCs destroy ozone, said the new process would be helpful in eliminating stockpiles but could not remove the CFCs already in the air.
The two researchers have applied for a provisional patent of their method, which uses sodium oxalate. The chemical, when heated at about the temperature for baking bread, breaks down the CFCs into salt and sodium flouride, which is found in toothpaste.