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Graduate Defense: Riley Mungo

May 26 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm MDT

Thesis Information

Title: Enhanced Detection of Airborne Environmental Toxins by Remote Optical Instrumentation

Program: Master of Science in Chemistry

Advisor: Dr. Matthew King, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Members: Dr. Michael Callahan, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Dr. Eric Brown, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Wildfires in the United States are increasing in frequency and the amount of acreage burned due to climate change and a sustained drought in the western part of the country. As a greater number of wildfires burn in the west, the amount of smoke produced becomes a health concern to the public. Wildfires release airborne toxins and hazardous air pollutants that cause adverse health effects to the public in high concentrations but are of principle concern to health officials as they have differential impacts on infants and children. Some of the airborne toxins released are carbonyl compounds such as: formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, acrolein, and methacrolein. An air quality index (AQI) is the primary method of reporting air quality and the attributed health effects to the public. However, an AQI cannot quantify select pollutants or reliably quantify the airborne toxins in situ. The development of a mid-IR and nonlinear Raman detection instrumentation would allow for more dependable collection of wildfire smoke data and the quantification of select carbonyl compounds. Wildfire smoke was collected over the summer of 2021 around southwestern Idaho using EPA method TO-11A to determine the reliability of the method against optical detection methods. A compact LED-based mid-IR instrument was constructed and limits of detection were compared to standard FT-IR and the EPA method. Nonlinear Raman methods were explored using the optical output from a photonic crystal fiber, for which output characterization and the sensitivity, selectivity, and limits of detection will be evaluated for the potential development of a compact all fiber spectrometer with real time in situ capabilities in Idaho.