Characterization of volcanic ash from 2010 Mt Merapi, Indonesia eruption by neutron activation analysis and leaching analysis

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Date

2012-12

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Canion, Bonnie Elise

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Abstract

This research was able to identify a wide range of elements present in fresh volcanic ash from a 2010 eruption in Indonesia using varied instrumental neutron activation analysis techniques. The ash was then leached into slightly acidic distilled water meant to simulate rainwater. This thesis focuses both on the methods used to identify the elements present in the ash, as well as the possible impacts of the results. The research included the use of both thermal and epithermal neutron irradiations from the University of Texas's TRIGA research reactor in conjunction with a high purity germanium detector (HPGe) with a Compton suppression system. The leachate was analyzed by an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), and the results were compared to the original material present in the ash. Several potentially toxic metals and metalloids leached out of the system at relatively high rates. For example, 2.7% of the original antimony present in the ash leached into the simulated rainwater, as well as 1.7% of the original nickel, and 0.71% of the original arsenic. However, the concentrations of the elements identified in the ash were mostly similar to average crustal rock, and the concentrations of the elements identified in the leachate were not determined to be at toxic levels. The total amount of each element released during the eruption was also calculated based on the estimate of 160 million tonnes of ash released during the eruption, which was determined by a different study.

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