Miljöforensik - spårning av föroreningar. Lena Alakangas, LTU  och Emma Engström, ALS
Environmental forensics - pollution detection. Lena Alakangas, LTU and Emma Engström, ALS Photo: Richard Renberg View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Researchers in Applied Geochemistry are taking the lead in Environmental Forensics

Published: 25 February 2020

In a unique collaboration with ALS Scandinavia AB, researchers in Applied Geochemistry at Luleå University of Technology have taken the lead in the young and growing research field of environmental forensics; tracing sources of pollution and transport routes in the environment.

"The tracking includes multi-analysis of elements and stable isotopes. Humans are now a significant geological factor affecting the Earth on a local, regional and global scale. Human impacts on the natural environment create a need for tracing pollution and transport routes. Such tracking is so-called environmental forensics", says Lena Alakangas, professor of applied geochemistry at Luleå University of Technology.

Applied geochemistry has for many years collaborated with ALS Scandinavia AB on the development of elemental analyzes with ICP technology (Inductively Coupled Plasma). Through financial support from the Kempe Foundations, Applied Geochemistry, as the only university-based research group in Sweden, owns an MC-ICP-MS instrument. This instrument enables multi-analysis of elements and of heavy stable isotopes such as Cd, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mo, Si and Zn, and of course Pb and Sr, which have long been used in criminal and archaeological forensics. The instrument is located at ALS in the Aurorum Science Park on Porsön in Luleå. The company also conducts analyzes for other researchers besides Applied Geochemistry when time and opportunity exist.

"This is a very cost-effective way to offer access to advanced analysis technology and enable the establishment of a joint research center within Environmental forensics", says Lena Alakangas.

Applied geochemistry has recently installed a QuanTmin laboratory for detailed microscale mineralogical studies, which, together with isotope analyzes, brings geochemical research into the absolute research front in environmental forensics. These new analytical tools give the possibility to trace previously unidentified or diffuse sources of emission. This includes increased elemental concentrations in natural water systems, industrial systems or in recipient system where the source of emissions may have multiple origins, which causes difficulties in preventing the spread of the contaminants in question.

Lena Alakangas

Lena Alakangas, Professor

Phone: +46 (0)920 491396
Organisation: Applied Geochemistry, Geosciences and Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering
Emma Engström

Emma Engström, Adjunct Professor

Organisation: Applied Geochemistry, Geosciences and Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering