Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Scott LaBrake




mercury, concentration, concentrations, icp, km


Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, ICP-MS, were used to investigate mercury pollution in Norway Spruce tree bark (Picea abies) located downwind from the Huntley coal-fired power plant in North Tonawanda, New York. We predicted that mercury concentration, C, would fall inversely with distance, r, and experimentally determined that after a 5.77 km – 9.47 km deposition delay, mercury concentration fell as C ∝r-1.48 with an r2 value of 0.96. PIXE was useful in quickly and non-destructively (experiment could be done repeatedly) determining order of magnitude concentrations for heavy metals with concentrations less than one part-per-million. ICP-MS requires a more involved sample preparation method, but was useful in very precisely determining mercury concentrations. After comparing PIXE to ICP-MS, we found that the two methods were in agreement, although with varying precision. For the comparison sample, we found a PIXE value of 100 ± 70 μg kg-1 compared to 43 ± 1 μg kg-1 for ICPMS (mass of mercury per mass of bark). Using the experimental concentration – distance relationship, we found that the Huntley Power Plant had a sphere of influence (mercury concentration above background levels) of 100 – 200 km. Department of Physics and Astronomy, June 2008.