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Ultra-trace Elements Studies Image 2
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Ultra-trace Elements Studies (Image 2)

July 8, 2010
Research associate Mary Davis, left, and research scientist Paolo Gabrielli in the Class 100 Clean Room at Byrd Polar Research Center. The clean room contains less than 100 particles per cubic foot of air, helping keep ice core samples unadulterated for analysis. Gabrielli studies trace and ultra-trace elements--miniscule amounts of metals carried to the ice primarily by dust--in ice cores, to learn about past environmental conditions and pollution. Ice cores contain a wealth of information about past climate and environmental conditions, with clues in the form of trapped bubbles of gas and varying concentrations of chemical species and insoluble dust. Ultra-trace elements are very, very small--on the order of even less than one part per trillion. (In comparison, scientists talk about concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide in parts per million.) The trace elements are present in such a low amount that it is necessary to adopt exceptionally clean sample procedures and a special technique of mass spectrometry for their reliable detection called inductively coupled plasma sector field mass spectrometry. "Trace elements can provide interesting information, such as evidence of past volcanic eruptions and the influx of extraterrestrial particles, but they also reveal the current anthropogenic contamination of the atmosphere," says Gabrielli. Gabrielli is part of the ice core paleoclimatology team at The Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center, where he has established a new research program to study trace and ultra-trace metals in tropical and subtropical ice cores. For additional information about Gabrielli's ultra-trace element research, see the Antarctic Sun story, "Without a Trace." To learn more about the Byrd Polar Research Center, visit their Web site. (Date of Image: April 2008) [See related image Here.]


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