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ERC PoC MIMO (2015-2016)

Project Title: Development of a commercial mercury isotope monitoring tool (MIMO)

Budget: 1.5 k€

Duration: 1/5/2015 to 31/10/2016

Participants @ CNRS-GET: Jeroen Sonke (coordinator), Nicolas Marusczak, Laure Laffont, Jerome Chmeleff. Mercury Research Group website.

Collaborators at Tekran: Eric Prestbo (chief scientist), Gabe Eiras, Lucas Hawkins, Kin Leung

Mercury is a toxic element with adverse effects on humans and wildlife.  Mercury  is also an unusual heavy metal because it is present as an inert trace gas in the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution anthropogenic mercury  gas emissions outweigh natural volcanic  mercury  emissions by at least a factor of  ten.  The  main  anthropogenic  emission  sectors  are  the  energy  sector  (coal  burning),  metallurgy, cement  production  and  mining.  Over  the  past  two  decades  much  scientific  effort  has  gone  into understanding atmospheric mercury dynamics and the fate of mercury emissions. It has been found that atmospheric  mercury  has an approximate one-year half-life. Emissions therefore travel far from their source, and can impact pristine ecosystems. The cross-border export of  mercury  emissions  make  it  a global pollutant. Large atmospheric mercury monitoring  programs  recently  put  into  place  are  the  European  FP7  GMOS  (Global  Mercury Observation  System), the  North-American AMNet and CAMNet (Atmospheric  Mercury  Network)  and the Chinese mercury  monitoring  programs.  GMOS  and  AMNet  typically  gather  data  on  atmospheric  mercury concentrations,  but  do  not  provide  information  on  the  mercury  emission  source.  In  the  ERC  StG MERCURY ISOTOPES project we have been evaluating a source specific mercury tracer: the mercury isotope fingerprints that are embedded at the atomic level of mercury in the natural environment. Our  observations  suggest  that  most,  but  not  all, anthropogenic  mercury  emission sources can be distinguished based on their mercury isotope fingerprints. The objective  of  the  ERC  Proof of Concept  MIMO  project  is  to  develop,  together  with  Tekran  Instruments Corporation, the largest global  mercury  instrument developer, a commercial Mercury Isotope Monitoring (MIMO)  tool  that  is  compatible  with  current  mercury  monitoring  programs. The MIMO tool is designed to be fully programmable in order to recover mercury from standard commercial monitoring analyzers during pollution events, day/night events or multiple local sites, for mercury isotope fingerprinting. MIMO  will  help  environmental agencies  in  mercury  monitoring  and  mercury  emission  source  identification;  MIMO  will  help governments  put  pressure  on  the  largest  mercury  emitting  countries  to  comply  with  the  UNEP Minamata Convention, and create a healthier global environment.

MIMO Image for online reporting

MIMO prototype, based on a Tekran 1115i multi-valve module and a Tekran 2537X mercury vapor analyzer. The scheme illustrates how daytime and nightime atmospheric mercury (Port 0) is routed to separate traps that recover the analyzed mercury over a period of days to weeks, depending on the mercury levels. The traps are subsequently analyzed for mercury isotope signatures by mass spectrometry.

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