Greetings from the Tecamac Technical University Site
It’s been two weeks since we arrived in Mexico and it’s been a real challenge to recreate our laboratory in a trailer in the field in this desert-like location – Tecamac – north of the Federal District of Mexico City. There are mountains all around - when you can see them through the haze. I am planning to measure hydrogen peroxide in the air if my instruments will cooperate. More on that subject in another postcard.
There are hundreds of different experiments going on here. I am sharing a trailer with Angela Baker, a graduate student working with Don Blake at U.C. Irvine. She collects trace gases in steel canisters and ships them back to her lab, where later she will analyze their contents using chromatography. One class of compounds she is interested in is the halocarbons, many of which cause depletion of the ozone layer, are greenhouse gases or are harmful to breathe. Another important group is the hydrocarbons, which play an important role in the formation of photochemical smog. Angela can detect these compounds and many others at the part-per-trillion level. By the time she is through, she will have investigated over 100 different gases in each canister.