The chemists policing Earth’s atmosphere for rogue pollution

January 22, 2020

High in the Swiss Alps, scientists in a small research station are busy fingerprinting the atmosphere.

Perched on a mountain ridge at around 3,450 metres altitude, the Jungfraujoch centre boasts five laboratories, a workshop, a library, a tiny kitchen and ten small bedrooms. Day and night, funnels suck in the thin mountain air and channel it into a series of instruments designed to separate, identify and measure the chemicals swirling through this pristine locale. “We are scanning the whole spectrum of thousands and thousands of molecules,” says atmospheric chemist Martin Vollmer. “It is like we are taking the DNA of the atmosphere.”

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