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There has been considerable interest in measuring heavy metal pollution, such as mercury, using tree ring analysis. Since 1970, this method has provided a historical snapshot of pollutant concentrations near hazardous waste sites. Traditional methods of analysis have long been used with heavy metal pollutants such as mercury. These methods, such as atomic fluorescence and laser ablation, are sometimes time consuming and expensive to implement. In recent years, ion beam techniques, such as Particle Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE), have been used to measure large numbers of elements. Most of the existing research in this area has been completed for low to medium atomic number pollutants, such as titanium, cobalt, nickel, and copper. Due to the reduction of sensitivity, it is often difficult or impossible to use traditional low energy (few MeV) PIXE analysis for pollutants with large atomic numbers. For example, the PIXE detection limit for mercury was recently measured to be about 1 ppm for a spiked Southern Magnolia wood sample [ref. 1]. This presentation will compare PIXE and standard chemical concentration results for a variety of wood samples.
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Measuring mercury and other elemental components in tree rings
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Proceedings of the 50th International Instrumentation Symposium