N2 and O2 chemistry using rare isotopologues
Overview and Methods
We are using novel methods for tracing the origins of N2 and O2 gases. These methods are enabled by the high mass resolution and sensitivity of the Panorama mass spectrometer. Some of our work on the biological influences on molecular oxygen is described in a paper in Science by Yeung et al. (2015). The image below of former postdoc Laurence Yeung, former graduate student Jeanine Ash, and Ed Young is a link to news coverage on this work.
We recently reported on the first measurements of the rare isotopologue 15N15N in Earth's atmosphere. The work by Yeung et al. (2017) shows that air has a 20 per mil excess of this molecule relative to expectations from thermodynamics and normal biological processing. We used electrolysis expeirments to conclude that this signal is produced in the upper atmosphere. The electrolysis experiments, shown below, were performed in an adapted ion gauge.