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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 72 No. 5, p. 1269-1277
    Received: May 15, 2007

    * Corresponding author(s): lwielo@bnl.gov
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Nondestructive System for Analyzing Carbon in the Soil

  1. Lucian Wielopolski *a,
  2. George Hendreyb,
  3. Kurt H. Johnsenc,
  4. Sudeep Mitraa,
  5. Stephen A. Priord,
  6. Hugo H. Rogersd and
  7. H. Allen Torbertd
  1. a Brookhaven National Lab., Environmental Sciences Dep., Upton, NY 11973
    b Queens College School of Earth and Environ. Sci., Flushing, NY 11367
    c USDA-Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Forestry Sciences Lab., P.O. Box 12254, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
    d USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Lab., 411 S. Donahue Dr., Auburn, AL 36832


Carbon is an essential component of life and, in its organic form, plays a pivotal role in the soil's fertility, productivity, and water retention. It is an integral part of the atmospheric–terrestrial C exchange cycle mediated via photosynthesis; furthermore, it emerged recently as a new trading commodity, i.e., “carbon credits.” When carefully manipulated, C sequestration by the soil could balance and mitigate anthropogenic CO2 emissions into the atmosphere that are believed to contribute to global warming. The pressing need for assessing the soil's C stocks at local, regional, and global scales, now in the forefront of much research, is considerably hindered by the problems besetting dry-combustion chemical analyses, even with state-of-the-art procedures. To overcome these issues, we developed a new method based on gamma-ray spectroscopy induced by inelastic neutron scattering (INS). The INS method is an in situ, nondestructive, multielemental technique that can be used in stationary or continuous-scanning modes of operation. The results from data acquired from an investigated soil mass of a few hundred kilograms to an approximate depth of 30 cm are reported immediately. Our initial experiments have demonstrated the feasibility of our proposed approach; we obtained a linear response with C concentration and a detection limit between 0.5 and 1% C by weight.

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