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Three elements in one sweep

Where does the sediment in the Wadden Sea and the silt in the harbour of Hamburg come from? How are pollutants in the environment distributed? Questions like these can, for example, be answered today though chemically analysing trace elements in sediment or water samples. These methods, however, are still often very time-consuming because the analysis samples must be processed with a great deal of effort. A HZG doctoral candidate, Tristan Zimmermann, has therefore developed a method that vastly speeds up sample preparation. His method will help ease everyday laboratory work for researchers all over the world. His endeavours have now been awarded a prize at a scientific conference.

Sediment samples from the North Sea. Photo: HZG / Daniel Pröfrock

Sediment samples from the North Sea. Photo: HZG / Daniel Pröfrock

The origin of the sediment

The Wadden Sea is very unique in that it is constantly in motion. With the alternating ebb and flood, masses of water are virtually pumped back and forth. The mud is rinsed away and deposited at another location. When breaking seas approach the coasts during a hurricane, tons of sediment are whirled up and transported. Scientists at the Institute of Coastal Research of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht want to understand these processes. They wish to ascertain where the material comes from, what path the material takes, where it is deposited and how these processes contribute to pollutant distribution.

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