Spectronic Analytical Instruments has provided laboratory instruments for the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford University to further its research into mercury emissions from volcanoes.
At this centre for research in volcanology, Dr Tamsin Mather, Dr Melanie Witt and Prof David Pyle have been researching the quantity of mercury dispersed into the earth's atmosphere during non-explosive degassing.
At the crater rim, most of the mercury is in the form of gaseous elemental mercury, which has an extended atmospheric lifetime and can be transported long distances from its source.
Humans are mainly exposed to mercury through contaminated foodstuffs.
Out of all toxic elements, mercury is said to be the largest human health concern and volcanic emissions are a significant source of the element on a worldwide scale.
The Department of Earth Sciences makes high-time frequency measurements using a Lumex RA 915+ mercury analyser.
From these measurements, the department can record the variability of mercury emissions.
Spectronic is the sole UK distributor for Lumex, a manufacturer of scientific instruments.
The RA-915+ mercury analyser is an all-purpose, high-sensitivity analytical instrument for environmental monitoring in laboratory or in field conditions.
It has a wide measuring range and is controlled by a keypad or a computer.
It is said to be useful for the real-time detection of mercury vapour in air and water.
The portable Lumex RA 915+ analyser is enabling the Department of Earth Sciences to conduct the real-time monitoring and detection of mercury vapour.
Mather said: 'The nature of this research means we need to measure real-time mercury concentrations to compare with other real-time gas measurements [such as sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide] at volcanoes in order to look at the way mercury levels varied compared to these other chemical species.
'We have also started to look at mercury levels in the marine and urban atmosphere and river water and vegetation samples, with the PYRO915+ pyrolyser and RP-91 liquid attachments also supplied by Spectronics,' she added.