At the heart of the system is a technology called Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy - LIBS - that can make on-the-spot field measurements of carbon in soil with at least 95 percent accuracy. Unlike conventional carbon-measurement techniques that require bulky soil samples and weeks of analysis in distant laboratories to obtain results with the same or less accuracy, the LIBS system enables users to analyze a sample of soil from a 1-1/4 inch diameter core at millimeter resolution in about 15 minutes, researcher Michael Ebinger and his colleagues reported at the 2002 spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union underway in Washington, D.C., today.
The entire package of instrumentation can fit in the back of a van or light truck. Ebinger says the system was designed to measure the amount of carbon in soils much more quickly and with greater accuracy than conventional methods. These carbon measurements, in turn, can be used to improve understanding of the role carbon plays in terrestrial agricultural and forest lands as well as its role in global warming. Even more immediate could be its use as a tool for helping agriculturalists get optimum productivity from their land and reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.
Productive soils love a substantial amount of carbon along with other nutrients in order to be healthy, while improper tillage and crop-planting practices can actually release soil carbon into the atmosphere, where it joins carbon from other sources to contribute to the greenhouse effect," he reports. "But because the amount of carbon var
Contact: Bill Dupuy
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory