Separation of air components and pollutants by the Earth's gravitational field.


Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University, Gerlach Hall, 2108 Neil Ave., Columbus, OH, 43210, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


In this work, we develop a model able to predict the equilibrium separation of gases due to differences in their molecular weights and the action of gravity. The separation of H, He, O, and N2 with altitude is a characteristic phenomenon of the heterosphere. The model is able to qualitatively recreate the compositional profile of the whole heterosphere from a single composition measurement. The model is applied to the separation of air components and pollutants by empty wells drilled on the planet surface. It predicts that the separation of gases would be possible in wells deep enough under equilibrium. The high molecular weight of some anthropogenic pollutants (SO2, O3, NO2, CO2, etc.) would facilitate their segregation along shorter distances compared to those involved in the heterosphere. The simulations indicate that deep wells could concentrate some air components and pollutants by orders of magnitude over the levels at the Earth's surface without external energy input. For instance, argon molar fractions of >40% and >60% could be achievable at 44 km and 55 km depth, respectively. Finally, we discuss the feasibility of gravitational separation as a potential pollution abatement technology.


Atmosphere,Carbon capture,Diffusion,Direct air capture,Geoengineering,Pollution,

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