Environmental applications

Soil Analysis

Learn about the analysis of contaminants in soil to monitor the health of the environment. Bruker provides multiple solutions to analyze soil for contaminants which endanger the environment and its inhabitants.

Monitoring of Heavy Metals and Hazardous Elements in Soil by XRF

Soil may contain heavy metals and other dangerous elemental contaminants. Prior to use for agricultural, recreational, or other activities it should be screened to help protect people, plants, animals, and the surrounding environment.    

XRF is a fast, nondestructive technology for elemental analysis of heavy metals and other trace elements in soil. Bruker’s Elemental Analyzer portfolio includes high-throughput lab-based ED-XRF and WD-XRF, point-and-shoot handheld XRFmicro-XRF, and total reflection XRF (TXRF) spectrometers.

TXRF provides multi-element analysis of soil with the sensitivity of ICP-OES and AAS for heavy metal analysis. It is particularly advantageous for the direct measurement of a wide range of elements in sewage without any pretreatment. It is suitable for samples in the original, highly muddy state and as an aqua regia digestion (ARD).

Portable XRF has been used to monitor heavy metals in soil for many years now. US EPA Method 6200-05, EN15309-07, and ISO 13196-2013 guide screening of soil, waste, and sludge with PXRF. It’s used to screen soil in commercial and urban gardens, construction and general industrial sites, paint removal sites, and mining reclamation sites. PXRF is also used to confirm remediation efforts at HAZMAT sites and to track elemental contaminants distributed by extreme weather debris migration.  

Analyzing Microplastics in Soil by FT-IR and Raman Spectroscopy

The environmental pollution caused by plastics has long since reached agricultural land. However, the origin of the identified plastic particles cannot be clearly determined in many cases. 

Research communities like the Collaborative Research Center 1357 at the University of Bayreuth are trying to better understand the scope and effects of this new type of environmental damage.

Especially in soil analysis, lengthy sample preparation is necessary. As an analytical technique, however, the researchers rely on infrared spectroscopy to determine the number, identity and size of the microplastic particles.

Contaminant Monitoring in Soil by Mass Spectrometry

Monitoring soil for organic contaminants such as pesticides, fertilizers or industrial chemicals is an important aspect in environmental monitoring.  Such chemicals held within the soil are likely to leach out during erosion and be transported to ground water or surface water and potentially find their way into drinking water sources.

Mass spectrometry is an ideal analytical tool for detecting, identifying and quantifying organic compounds in soil due to its’ specificity and sensitivity.  Bruker provides a number of solutions for high sensitivity analysis of multiple compound classes such as pesticides, fertilizers, semi-volatile organic compounds, personal care products and drugs/medicines.  

Soil Screening and Characterization by Infrared Spectroscopy

Infrared spectroscopy is increasingly being used as a supplement and alternative to conventional soil testing methods for the estimation of many soil functional properties and plants properties.

The World Agroforestry Centre for example is supporting a network of soil spectroscopy labs in Africa and the technology is being deployed by the Africa Soil Information Service, the Ethiopia Soil Information Service, and a number of sustainable land management projects.

  • Prediction of soil properties 
  • Identification of minerals present
  • Characterization of organic matter quality 
  • Digital soil mapping, farmer advisory services

Analysis of Compound Fertilizers by NIR Spectroscopy

Without compound fertilizers, industrial agriculture and thus the supply of food to a large part of the human population would be hardly conceivable. Fertilizers containing nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K) - the core nutritional elements - are called compound fertilizers or NPK fertilizers.

For the application it is important to determine the total nitrogen, total phosphorus and water-soluble potassium content in granulated NPK fertilizers. In addition to the sum parameters (e.g. total nitrogen), the individual components such as ammonium nitrogen or nitrate nitrogen etc. can also be determined.

Furthermore, the determination of added minerals or elements such as calcium or magnesium is also possible, depending on the matrix and concentration.