Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Scott LaBrake




aerosols, New York, x-ray, spectroscopy


We have performed a PIXE analysis of atmospheric aerosol samples collected in Schenectady, NY, to study airborne pollution in an urban environment. The samples were collected using a PIXE International, 9-stage, cascade impactor that separates the airborne particles according to aerodynamic diameter and deposits them on thin Kapton foils. The impacted foils were bombarded with 2.2-MeV proton beams from the Union College 1.1-MV Pelletron accelerator and the emitted X-rays were detected with an Amptek silicon drift detector. The X-ray energy spectra were analyzed using GUPIX software to determine the elemental concentrations in the samples. A broad range of elements from Al to Pb were identified and measurable concentrations of Br and Pb were detected at small particle sizes. The measured Br/Pb ratio of 0.37±0.04 is consistent with results from previous studies and suggests the presence of leaded aviation fuel that may be due to the proximity of the collection site to a small regional airport with a significant amount of general aviation traffic.

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