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Data for: Nitrous oxide formation by corona discharge: Isotopic composition measurements and atmospheric applications


Smith, Mica C. et al. (2021), Data for: Nitrous oxide formation by corona discharge: Isotopic composition measurements and atmospheric applications, Dryad, Dataset,


Agricultural practices have led to a greater use of nitrogen-containing fertilizers and an increase in N2O, an important greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance. Isotopic measurements can be used to differentiate sources of N2O in the atmosphere, and the data presented here explore the isotopic composition of N2O formed in a low-temperature plasma, similar to some forms of lightning in the atmosphere. A corona discharge was used to generate N2O under flowing and static conditions, at pressures from approximately 0.1 to 10 Torr, a discharge voltage of 5 kV, and a discharge current of 1500 mA. Additional experiments were conducted by varying the discharge current between 75 to 1500 μA at ~0.5 Torr. Samples were analyzed using an isotope ratio mass spectrometer, and we find that the isotopic composition of N2O produced differs in unique ways from that of other sources to the atmosphere. These differences suggest that isotopic measurements of atmospheric N2O samples can be used to determine/investigate whether observations of local and regional enhancements in N2O are due to lightning, as well as to constrain the source of N2O in the upper stratosphere, mesosphere and thermosphere.


​​​​​​The experimental methods and data processing are described in detail in Smith et al. (2021).

Usage Notes

    • Experiments in Table 2 are the averages of similar groups of experiments that are shown in Table S2. Specifically, Table 2-Averaged experimental results are the following from Table S2-unaveraged experimental results.
      • 1500 μA at 0.500, 0.550, and 0.520 Torr (rows 2-4)
      • 300 μA at 0.550 and 0.540 Torr (rows 7-8)
      • 150 μA at 0.560, 0.57, and 0.56 Torr (rows 9-11)
      • 1500 μA at 9.76 and 9.73 Torr (rows 18-19)
      • 1500 μA at 9.85 and 9.69 Torr static runs (rows 20-21)
    • For additional usage notes please see comments in the excel file.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Award: NNX17AE36G: Upper Air Research Program