Abstract for 2nd International Workshop on Radiological Sciences and Applications

Vienna, 16-18 March 2005



Nuclear Techniques Contributing to Better Air Quality Management on a Local, Regional and Global Scale.


David D. Cohen, Ed Stelcer, Olga Hawas, David Garton

Environment Division, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

PMB1, Menai, NSW, Australia

Email dcz@ansto.gov.au


Key words: IBA, fine particle characterisation, air pollution, ACE Asia.


Accelerator based Ion Beam Analysis (IBA) techniques have been applied to the characterisation of fine particulate matter from air pollution for many decades in laboratories around the world.  Their multi-elemental capabilities, high sensitivity, low detection limits, short analysis times and non destructive properties make them ideal for this type of work.  In particular, the simultaneous application of atomic and nuclear reactions such as PIXE, PIGE, RBS and PESA can provide quantitative elemental information on a very broad range of elements from hydrogen to uranium on samples containing only a few micrograms of material.


Fine particle pollution in the atmosphere is mainly composed of micron, and sub-micron particles from anthropogenic sources such as motor vehicles, biomass and fossil fuel burning and natural sources such as windblown soils and sea spray.  The characterisation of these fine airborne particles is becoming increasingly important to Governments, regulators and researchers due to their impacts on human health, their ability to travel thousands of kilometres across countries and more recently for their influence on climate forcing and global warming. 


In this talk we will discuss how IBA techniques have contributed to a better understanding of fine particle air pollution on local, regional and global scales.  Government legislation requires Local Councils in Australian States to report regularly to Parliament on the State of the Environment.   This report must include air quality and impacts of industries on air quality.  IBA techniques allow for multi-elemental fingerprinting of key air pollution sources both anthropogenic and natural.  Providing unique information for these Councils.


On a regional scale we will discuss two recent examples, in the first IBA techniques were able to quantify a major dust storm in October 2002 during the height of our recent droughts. This natural storm covered three Australian States.  The second example will discuss the influence of large open cut mining operations and blasting on surrounding towns and farms and how IBA techniques were able to separate these operations from coal burning power station emissions in the same region.


On a global scale ANSTO collaborates internationally with several countries in the Asian region, in particular we have been a significant player in the Aerosol Characterisation Experiment in Asia (ACE-Asia).  This Project is studying massive airborne dust and industrial pollution from northern and eastern China which is transported, in the northern hemisphere spring time, in an easterly direction across Korea and Japan and even across North America.  This fine particle pollution is large enough to have impacts on solar heating of the globe and to directly affect climate forcing.  Furthermore different components like sulphate, carbon and soil have different effects on climate forcing.  Again we will discuss how IBA techniques have been applied to characterise these aerosol components and provide quantitative information for the verification of global climate models.