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Education and Outreach Programs

Neuqua Valley High School ESRP 2021

Using Spectroscopy to Measure Heavy Metal Absorption in Lichens


  • Students:
    • William Fu
    • Gabrielle Iglesias
    • Sofia Ramos
    • Sonia Suratkal
    • Adithya Taire
    • Lorrie Ward
  • Teachers:
    • Daria Prawlocki
  • Mentors:
    • William Guise (Argonne National Laboratory, Advanced Photon Source, DND-CAT)
    • Denis Keane (Argonne National Laboratory, Advanced Photon Source, DND-CAT)
    • Qing Ma (Northwestern University, DND-CAT)

Advanced Photon Source Sector 5: DND-CAT

Lichens obtain nutrients from the atmosphere and can absorb heavy metals, explaining their potential as bioindicators for metals. Examining heavy metals in lichen can help us better understand their ability to serve as pollution indicators. By utilizing X-ray fluorescence, the elemental composition of metals in the lichen samples can be examined through spectroscopy. Lichen samples collected in Lemont, IL at Sagawau Nature Preserve were compared to samples from Treehaven in Tomahawk, WI, specifically greenshield, rosette, ruffled, powder-tipped, and bottlebrush shield lichen will be examined using X-ray fluorescence for a clear heavy metal signature, focusing on heavy metals from car pollution: Cd, Cu, Cr, Ni, Pb and Zn. The chemical state of the heavy metals will then be studied using XANES, EXAFS, or both.

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