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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 15 (2010) pp 464-468

Economical Photochemistry at 100,000 Feet

Kyle Edwards, Reinhold Hetzel, Chris Shipman, Thomas Manning*,, Dennis Phillips, James Nienow

Department of Chemistry, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA, 31698,; Biological and Chemical Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, University of Georgia, Athens, GA; Biology Department, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA 31698
Received June 17,2010. Accepted September 2, 2010.

Published: 22 December 2010

Abstract. As part of an undergraduate environmental chemistry class, students are given a project with budget constraints that utilizes a high altitude weather balloon for ultraviolet and vacuum ultraviolet photochemistry. The student project encompassed two flights and retrievals. Each flight climbed to over 100,000 feet above sea level carrying a payload of electronics and photochemical experiments. Students used Global Positioning units to track the flight, a digital camera to record images, an electronic thermometer to record the temperature and two methods to hold the chemicals in place while interacting with intense solar radiation. At the peak altitudes, there are more intense radiation fluxes of ultraviolet (UV) and vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) radiation as well as significant differences in pressure and temperature compared to the surface. The experiments cost approximately $500 (balloon, camera, GPS, etc) and carried a 1.5 kg payload. Once the payload is retrieved, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization-Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) and Fourier Transform-Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR) are used to analyze samples. A side project with a middle school science class involved loading Madagascar hissing cockroaches on both flights, showing young students science can be open ended and adventurous.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; general chemistry

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (573 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Appendix A. Balloon Launch Notification to FAA for second flight is aailable as supporting Material as a PDF file. (62 KB).

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