Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers develop new instrument to monitor atmospheric mercury

02.02.2015

Instrument detects minute quantities of mercury to help better protect public health

Researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science developed and tested a new sensor to detect ambient levels of mercury in the atmosphere. Funded through a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant, the new highly sensitive, laser-based instrument provides scientists with a method to more accurately measure global human exposure to mercury.


This graphic shows how mercury can enter the environment.

Credit: UNEP Chemicals Branch, DTIE - Switzerland

The measurement approach is called sequential two-photon laser induced fluorescence (2P-LIF) and uses two different laser beams to excite mercury atoms and monitor blue shifted atomic fluorescence. UM Rosenstiel School Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Anthony Hynes and colleagues tested the new mobile instrument, alongside the standard instrumentation that is currently used to monitor atmospheric mercury concentrations, during the three-week Reno Atmospheric Mercury Intercomparison Experiment (RAMIX) performed in 2011 in Reno, Nevada.

The 2P-LIF instrument measured ambient mercury at very minute levels within 10 seconds, whereas its counterpart instrument requires at least 2.5 minutes and is not able to differentiate between elemental and oxidized mercury, where the mercury atom is combined with another element or elements and becomes more efficiently deposited in the environment.

"To understand how mercury gets deposited we need to understand its atmospheric chemistry, but our understanding is very limited," said Hynes, a co-author of the new study. "Our instrument has the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of the atmospheric cycling of mercury and increase understanding of the global impact of mercury on human health."

The U.S. EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the International Minamata Convention on Mercury, have focused on limiting the emissions of toxic air pollutants, including mercury. Hynes noted that these represent huge steps forward but their effectiveness in protecting human health may be limited without an increased understanding of the global cycling of atmospheric mercury.

Mercury is deposited on the ground (dry deposition) or via rainfall (wet deposition) where it bioaccumulates and biomagnifies, ending up at much high concentrations in fish and mammals. Direct exposure to mercury by humans is primarily through the ingestion of methyl mercury from fish consumption.

###

The study, titled "Deployment of a sequential two-photon laser-induced fluorescence sensor for the detection of gaseous elemental mercury at ambient levels: fast, specific, ultrasensitive detection with parts-per-quadrillion sensitivity," was published in the Dec. 8 issue of the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques. The study co-authors include: Anthony J. Hynes, Dieter Bauer, James Remeika, Stephanie Everhart, Cheryl Tatum Ernest of the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science's Department of Atmospheric Sciences. The Instrument development was supported by NSF Award #MRI-0821174.

About the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School

The University of Miami is one of the largest private research institutions in the southeastern United States. The University's mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940's, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, visit: http://www.rsmas.miami.edu.

Diana Udel | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents
12.12.2017 | Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

nachricht How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>