In soil science, major advances in the field have often been linked to analytical developments in the pure sciences. This is certainly true of the highly advanced spectroscopic techniques that many soil scientists are using these days, which have their root in research that physicists were conducting to study electron behavior.
As in all spectroscopy, the techniques shine light on a sample, and the sample’s properties are inferred from the spectra produced when the sample absorbs light of specific wavelengths. In this case, though, the “light” is electromagnetic radiation of exceptional brilliance and quality that’s generated by high-energy particle accelerators, known as synchrotrons.
“We continue to place increasing demands on soils, and they play a lot of roles that are sometimes competing in food and fiber production, waste disposal, carbon storage, water quality protection, and so on,” says says Dean Hesterberg, a North Carolina State University soil chemist and SSSA and ASA Fellow, “Because of these demands, I believe we’re going to need to manage soils more and more precisely in the coming decades. And for that reason, we seek to understand soil with a higher degree of precision.”
For more, see the open access to the CSA News cover story: "Advanced Spectroscopy in Soil Biogeochemical Research" .
Photo: Yu-Ting Liu checks a sample in an X-ray microscope at the Advanced Photon Source, a national synchrotron X-ray research facility at the Argonne National Laboratory. Liu is a former student of Dean Hesterberg at North Carolina State University. Photo courtesy of Dean Hesterberg.