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17.10.2018 | Lumex Instruments Mercury Analyzer helps in research of the reasons of dinosaur mass extinction


October 2018 – New Jersey, USA. The scientists from Princeton University use Mercury Analyzer RA-915F from Lumex Instruments for geological research. One of the applications is to measure mercury in the sediments from 66 million years ago, during the time of the dinosaur mass extinction.

If mercury is found, this will support their hypothesis that the mass extinction occurred during rapid and massive volcanic eruptions that caused major global climate change, acid rain, and acidification of surface water leading to mass extinction. Mercury from the eruption was incorporated into sediments across the globe and is being measured by RA-915F to identify the climatic and environmental effects of the volcanic eruptions.

Gerta Keller, a professor in the Department of Geosciences, comments: “Here is where the Lumex Instruments RA-915F comes in.  Explosive volcanic eruptions transport gases and chemicals into the high atmosphere. Most of it rains out quickly, but not mercury which has a residence time of 6 months to two years. During this time Hg is blown around the world where it eventually rains out over land and oceans and is incorporated in sediments. We measure this mercury in sediments across the globe to obtain a record of the volcanic eruptions in India and to evaluate what the climatic and environmental effects were worldwide.

We already have demonstrated that this method works using the Lumex RA-915F. In fact, it works for every one of the 5 major mass extinctions in Earth's history. The mercury anomaly record is today the hot major tool that links all mass extinction to large continental flood basalt eruptions.”

The first findings are summarized in the article “Deccan volcanism induced high-stress environment during the Cretaceous–Paleogene transition at Zumaia, Spain: Evidence from magnetic, mineralogical and biostratigraphic records”.

Mercury Analyzer RA-915F combines facets of the PYRO-915 Attachment with Zeeman AA spectrometry for a complete system designed for the precise determination of mercury in solids such as foodstuffs, coal, FGD slurry, fly ash, raw feed materials, and other complex matrices. Some features and benefits of this instrument are its high selectivity, there are no pre-treatment procedures required, mercury determination is very fast and doesn’t require preliminary accumulation on a gold trap, it has a broad dynamic measurement range, and the variable temperature of the decomposition chamber allows for optimal atomization with preset modes for various types of samples.

Prof. Gerta Keller

Professor Gerta Keller in the atrium of Guyot Hall, with an Antrodemus dinosaur excavated during a 1941 dig.
Photo by Peter Murphy. Used with permission.

Professor Gerta Keller’s primary research focuses on major catastrophes in Earth’s history including the biological and environmental effects of catastrophes, such as meteorite impacts and major volcanic eruptions that lead to mass extinctions, rapid climate changes and ocean acidification. This research integrates paleontology, stratigraphy, sedimentology, geochronology and geochemistry in reconstructing past environmental changes associated with or leading up to mass extinctions.