During the summer of 2019, doctoral student Devon Haugh and
undergraduate Savannah Talledo, a Wofford College student participating
in the NSF-funded Science and Engineering Leadership Initiative at UD,
used the new microscope to study air pollutants.
Tiny gas particles
from vehicle exhaust and soot generated from burning coal can fuel
climate change and increase the risk of asthma, lung disease, heart
disease and other health problems. The microscope helped to determine
the acidity of the airborne particles, which influences how quickly they
will grow in the atmosphere.
“Understanding acidity can help us improve predictions of how
airborne particles affect human health and climate,” said Murray
Johnson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who is leading the
“In a conventional laboratory, acidity is measured with a pH
meter. However, that approach does not work for airborne particles on
the sub-micrometer-size scale, hence the need for new measurement
approaches such as the Raman microprobe.”
Haugh was glad to have access to the new instrument for her work.
“I care about the health of our environment,” she said. “This project
allows me to contribute toward better understanding and protecting
Experts at Winterthur’s Scientific Research and Analysis Lab will
focus the microscope on the museum’s valuable collections of historic
textiles, as well as its Chinese export paintings from the 18th and 19th
centuries, according to Jocelyn Alcántara-García, assistant professor
of art conservation and a co-investigator on the grant. In the first half of the 19th
century, with the boost in foreign trade due to the opening of ports in
China, a large number of Western synthetic chemical pigments were
imported to China. Before long, these man-made pigments replaced the
mineral and plant pigments that Chinese painters had traditionally used
in their artwork, from watercolors to reverse-painted glass. The new
microscope will help conservation scientists gain a better understanding
of this transitional period.
Alcántara-García said she will use the instrument to understand the
fixatives that were used to set the dye in historic textiles, which will
help textile conservators and other museum professionals determine
degradation mechanisms and potential interventions.