Nylon production: an unknown source of atmospheric nitrous oxide

Science. 1991 Feb 22;251(4996):932-4. doi: 10.1126/science.251.4996.932.


Nitrous oxide in the earth's atmosphere contributes to catalytic stratospheric ozone destruction and is also a greenhouse gas component. A precise budgetary accounting of N(2)O sources has remained elusive, and there is an apparent lack of source identification. One source of N(2)O is as a by-product in the manufacture of nylon, specifically in the preparation of adipic acid. Characterization of the reaction N(2)O stoichiometry and its isotopic composition with a simulated industrial adipic acid synthesis indicates that because of high rates of global adipic acid production, this N(2)O may account for approximately 10 percent of the increase observed for atmospheric N(2)O.