Applied Physics

Monitoring Mercury

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Science  19 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5665, pp. 1733
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5665.1733c

As a product of industrial activity, over 300 tons of mercury are added to the atmosphere each year in Europe alone. With direct consequences for health and the surrounding environment, such heavy-metal emissions are coming under closer scrutiny. Laser-based detecting systems look at the spectroscopic signature of backscattered light from excited particulates in the atmosphere surrounding emission sources, and they offer an alternative to the time-consuming and labor-intensive chemical analysis of air samples. Exciting mercury, however, requires radiation in the deepUV, a wavelength range in which long-term, stable laser-light sources are not readily available. Sjöholm et al. use an optical parametric oscillator as the UV light source and demonstrate in a ground-based system the ability to monitor accurately the movement and flux of mercury plumes over a range of 800 m. The surveillance technique should provide valuable information for those involved in regulating the impact of these potentially hazardous emissions. — ISO

Opt. Express 12, 551 (2004).

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