Pollution represents a significant problem globally. According to an estimate by the World Health Organization, 90% of people on earth breathe polluted air, which causes 7 million deaths across the globe each year.
Monitoring Environmental Pollutants
Air pollution is not the only problem though. There is also a significant risk posed to the environment and human health by water and soil pollution, both of which are caused by human activities.
In order to comprehend the formation of toxic substances, their distribution, effects, and how best to neutralize them, it is pivotal to monitor pollutants in the soil, air, and water.
Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) Spectroscopy
Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy constitutes one method of identifying, quantifying, and monitoring environmental pollutants. A powerful and flexible analytical tool, EPR locates unpaired electrons in paramagnetic substances, allowing transition metals and free radicals to be identified.
Bruker application scientists Dr. Kalina Ranguelova and Dr. Ralph Weber presented a webinar which offers a short introduction to EPR for non-experts. It explains how EPR is applied in the monitoring of pollution and in environmental science.
Even though EPR is dependent upon free radicals and/ or transition metal complexes being present, it has a variety of uses in environmental science. It is surprisingly common to find free radicals and transition metal complexes with unpaired electrons, especially in environmental contaminants. This is because, in nature, single electron transfer processes often occur.
Although some free radicals can be detected with the use of fluorescence spectroscopy, the only technique which can identify and quantify every species with unpaired electrons in a manner which is non-invasive is EPR.
Air pollution’s damaging effects – two of which are elevated risks of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease – have been connected with the presence of ambient particulate matter. This matter is produced by industry, traffic, fuel burning, and a variety of other sources.
In ambient particulate matter, reactant oxygen species (ROS), environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs), transition metals, and reactant nitrogen species (RNS) are typically present. All of these can be detected and quantified with the use of EPR.
Monitoring Radical Reactions with EPR
An understanding of radical formation and oxidation mechanisms can be provided by the monitoring of radical reactions using EPR. Further to this, it is possible to measure the oxidative potential of particulate matter and free radicals using EPR, offering a vital index of their potential adverse effects.
Dr. Weber uses the webinar to explain the essential features of pollutant EPR spectra, including hyperfine splitting and g-values. He demonstrates how it is possible to use these in order to identify EPFRs, RON, ROS, and transition metals. Furthermore, Dr. Weber talks about how structural information and the identification of oxidation states can be provided by EPR, as well as how it can determine spin states.
Dr. Weber also introduces Bruker’s EMXnano benchtop EPR spectrometer. This has been especially designed in order to combine powerful analysis with ease-of-use, which makes it the ideal solution for challenges in environmental research and monitoring.
A variety of studies which have used EPR in air pollutant environmental research are reviewed by Dr. Ranguelova. These include the identification of transition metals and radicals in diesel exhaust particles, gasoline exhaust particles, haze events, wood smoke soot, mineral dust, secondary organic aerosols, and cigarette tar.
Applications of EPR
A variety of EPR applications in the monitoring of soil pollutants are also outlined by Dr. Ranguelova. These include monitoring free radicals in iron-enriched clay, in biochar, and in soil from Superfund sites.
Even though free radicals are potentially harmful, if they are generated in a manner which is controlled, it is possible to use their properties in order to clean up pollutant free radicals. Used in the treatment of groundwater and wastewater, advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) involve the generation of hydroxyl radicals in order to neutralize polluting free radicals.
Dr. Ranguelova uses the webinar in order to present a series of case studies which demonstrate how EPR is used in order to track the generation of free radicals in AOPs, enabling the understanding and optimization of processes.
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