D.C. residents are getting more electrons from the air than anyone thought.
Electrons in the air are being absorbed by soil and plants in the city, according to a new study published online by the journal Chemistry.
A soil pH measurement in the District shows that more than 80 percent of the soil in the United States has more ions than electrons, according the study, which was conducted by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon Universities.
This means that the soil, not the soil itself, is the source of the electrons, which are absorbed into the soil.
“The soil is the main source of ions,” said Jie Zhao, a doctoral student in the chemistry department at Penn.
People often ask how to make your house more electrically efficient.
The answer is to use a soil-insoluble catalyst, like potassium sorbate, Zhao said.
Because soil is relatively water soluble, a soil solution can be used to absorb more ions from the soil than soil particles alone.
Soil sorbates are more effective than soil particle mulch, because particles have a lower electrical conductivity, Zhao explained.
The researchers analyzed a variety of soil particles from different areas of the United State.
They found that in soil particles, the amount of electrons is higher than the amount absorbed by the soil particles themselves.
In soil sorbation, ions are absorbed by tiny particles of soil, then are carried through the soil to the surface, Zhao added.
For instance, if the amount in the soil is 100 parts per million (ppm), a 1-million-to-one ion/particle ratio will absorb more electrons than particles of the same size.
Zhao’s team also found that soil particles absorb more electron from the atmosphere than soil that is free of soil.
The study also found higher rates of electron absorption in soil that was acidic, compared with soil that has a pH that is normal for soil.