Hi everybody! I hope you all had a wonderful Winter Term and are ready for a semester of research!
As stated in my previous blog post, I spent the Winter Term working on the SEM in order to determine whether it could be used to achieve quantitative elemental information. By comparing my data from the SEM to the data sent over from the College of Wooster by Meagan, who analyzed the same samples using an XRF device, I was able to determine which factors on the SEM to set in order to achieve the closest results. In short, I determined which factors (such as magnification of the sample and how much time is spent analyzing the sample) are the best for achieving as close results as possible compared to the results achieved by Meagan using her XRF device. I spent the last week of Winter Term learning how accurate and precise I could get my data and also spent some time learning how to incorporate new standards into the SEM for future analysis of other samples.
The upcoming semester will be spent continuing this research. I will determine a protocol to use the samples sent from Wooster as standards for analyzing ground up sediment by using fractions of the samples sent over by Meagan to try to further replicate the results by using different sample preparation techniques, such as dipping SEM tape in sediment, making grain mounts from the powdered versions of the samples, and even making dirt thin sections (hopefully with the new thin section machine we got in January!). In the future, I also hope to compare my results to samples that were analyzed separately at the University of Vermont using a portable XRF device. I will also eventually be using other mineral standards with the same protocols on the SEM.
Adrian and I will be working together on a research project for the upcoming semester. I spent Winter Term preparing for this by reading through various papers related to radionuclides and their effects on erosion and the interpretation of particle size effects on the adsorption of certain isotopes, such as 137Cs and 210Pb.
I will talk further about my results and my future plans at the lab meeting this coming week. I look forward to hearing about what other people did over Winter Term!