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Education and Outreach Programs

Neuqua Valley High School ESRP 2017

Using Spectroscopy to Determine the Effect of Monoculture on Soil Composition


  • Students:
    • Lauren Coffman
    • Grant Eberle
    • Avni Limdi
    • Brett Merriman
    • Susana Torres-Londono
    • Matt Valiga
  • Teachers:
    • Daria Prawlocki
  • Mentors:
    • Denis Keane (Argonne National Laboratory, Advanced Photon Source, DND-CAT)
    • Qing Ma (Northwestern University, DND-CAT)

Advanced Photon Source Sector 5: DND-CAT

XAFS (Extended Absorption Fine Structure) and XANES (X-ray Absorption Near-Edge Structure) are used to determine the differences in the elemental composition and physical structure of monoculture and untampered soils. Soil was taken from two separate plots, a plot with a history of monoculture and one untouched by agriculture. A surface level and deep level sample was taken from each of the two plots.

XAFS uses X-Ray fluorescence to identify the specific oxidation number of a sample. Data on the variation in elemental presence was collected with a 100 micron beam scan. X-Ray Microtomography results in data regarding the structural organization of the soil samples. X-Ray Spectroscopy will be used to identify the elements that are present in the sample. Measuring these qualities is significant in determining the similarities and differences between soil samples. These processes collected data that can be used to identify elemental sample information. With this information, a element based comparison can be made between the four plots of soil. This comparison along with external research can be used to develop a conclusion on the actual health of the differing soil plots.

If a significant difference in elemental composition is discovered it can be used to support the theory that monoculture soil has lower levels of essential soil nutrients, causing persistent damage to the environment. The objective of the proposal is to determine the effects of monoculture on the soil’s elemental composition and structure.

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