I recently visited The University of Stockholm in Stockholm, Sweden. I was visiting the lab of Dr. Orjan Gustafsson, where my advisor, Rebecca Sheesley was a post-doc researcher prior to Baylor.
The purpose of my visit was to use a new method of sample preparation for radiocarbon analysis. The samples that were prepared are black carbon particulate matter samples from Barrow, AK. We are planning a pan-Arctic black carbon collaboration with Dr. Gustafsson's research group, so my trip to Sweden also helped to facilitate this collaboration.
Unfortunately, radiocarbon analysis takes about 3 months to get the final results, so I don't have any reportable outcomes as of right now. However, the samples that were prepared represent the first year-round black carbon radiocarbon data from Barrow, AK and are vital in pan-Arctic apportionment of black carbon. We do have results from a small number of winter samples from Barrow and we are currently working toward a publication in a high end journal.
This trip was vital for my dissertation research. The samples that were prepared and submitted for radiocarbon analysis will make up my second paper that will be a chapter of my final dissertation. Visiting a new lab and learning new methods is also a wonderful experience that will allow me to be more diversified as a scientist.
The goal of my project is to provide a split between fossil and contemporary carbon sources of black carbon (elemental carbon) in the Arctic. Black carbon is important because it absorbs shortwave radiation and can lead to atmospheric heating, as well as reducing sea and snow ice albedo in the Arctic.
I was learning a new method for isolating the elemental carbon fraction of aerosol samples. Briefly, there are two fractions of aerosol samples, organic carbon and elemental carbon. In order to use radiocarbon measurements for source apportionment of elemental carbon, it has to be isolated from the organic carbon fraction. In the new method I learned, the organic carbon is combusted and converted to methane, followed by combustion of the elemental carbon to CO2. The CO2 is then frozen in liquid nitrogen and captured into a glass tube that is then flame sealed. The CO2 is then submitted for radiocarbon analysis at the National Ocean Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.