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Mercury as a Geophysical Tracer Gas - Emissions from the Emperor Qin Tomb in Xi´an Studied by Laser Radar

Zhao, Guangyu ; Zhang, Weixing ; Duan, Zheng ; Lian, Ming ; Hou, Ningbin ; Li, Yiyun ; Zhu, Shiming and Svanberg, Sune LU (2020) In Scientific Reports 10(1).
Abstract

Mercury is, because of its high vapor pressure and its prevalence in the atmosphere as atoms, an interesting geophysical tracer gas, also with potential archaeological applications. According to historical records dating back 2200 years, the mausoleum chamber of the “Terracotta Army Emperor” Qin in Xi´an, China, contains large amounts of liquid mercury, considered as an elixir of life at the time. We here report on measurements of the atmospheric contents of atomic mercury above the tomb mound performed with a mobile differential absorption lidar (light detection and ranging) system. Our measurements, which were performed from three different locations around the mound, indeed indicate elevated atmospheric mercury levels, with... (More)

Mercury is, because of its high vapor pressure and its prevalence in the atmosphere as atoms, an interesting geophysical tracer gas, also with potential archaeological applications. According to historical records dating back 2200 years, the mausoleum chamber of the “Terracotta Army Emperor” Qin in Xi´an, China, contains large amounts of liquid mercury, considered as an elixir of life at the time. We here report on measurements of the atmospheric contents of atomic mercury above the tomb mound performed with a mobile differential absorption lidar (light detection and ranging) system. Our measurements, which were performed from three different locations around the mound, indeed indicate elevated atmospheric mercury levels, with localizations, which correlate with previous in situ soil sampling results. Concentrations up to 27 ng/m3 were observed, significantly higher than the typical general pollutant level in the area which was found to be around 5–10 ng/m3. An out-flux of about 5×10−8 kg/s was estimated. Highly volatile mercury may be escaping through cracks, which developed in the structure over time, and our investigation supports ancient chronicle records on the tomb, which is believed never to have been opened/looted. Our findings also have bearings on the proposed use of mercury as a tracer gas for valuable ores and geothermal resource exploration, and also bring problematics around reliable nuclear waste long-term underground storage to mind.

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organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Scientific Reports
volume
10
issue
1
article number
10414
publisher
Nature Publishing Group
external identifiers
  • scopus:85086841781
  • pmid:32591617
ISSN
2045-2322
DOI
10.1038/s41598-020-67305-x
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
505f50ba-b6bd-4294-a592-46c5f504fb7b
date added to LUP
2020-07-07 08:19:05
date last changed
2021-02-23 04:22:14
@article{505f50ba-b6bd-4294-a592-46c5f504fb7b,
  abstract     = {<p>Mercury is, because of its high vapor pressure and its prevalence in the atmosphere as atoms, an interesting geophysical tracer gas, also with potential archaeological applications. According to historical records dating back 2200 years, the mausoleum chamber of the “Terracotta Army Emperor” Qin in Xi´an, China, contains large amounts of liquid mercury, considered as an elixir of life at the time. We here report on measurements of the atmospheric contents of atomic mercury above the tomb mound performed with a mobile differential absorption lidar (light detection and ranging) system. Our measurements, which were performed from three different locations around the mound, indeed indicate elevated atmospheric mercury levels, with localizations, which correlate with previous in situ soil sampling results. Concentrations up to 27 ng/m<sup>3</sup> were observed, significantly higher than the typical general pollutant level in the area which was found to be around 5–10 ng/m<sup>3</sup>. An out-flux of about 5×10<sup>−8</sup> kg/s was estimated. Highly volatile mercury may be escaping through cracks, which developed in the structure over time, and our investigation supports ancient chronicle records on the tomb, which is believed never to have been opened/looted. Our findings also have bearings on the proposed use of mercury as a tracer gas for valuable ores and geothermal resource exploration, and also bring problematics around reliable nuclear waste long-term underground storage to mind.</p>},
  author       = {Zhao, Guangyu and Zhang, Weixing and Duan, Zheng and Lian, Ming and Hou, Ningbin and Li, Yiyun and Zhu, Shiming and Svanberg, Sune},
  issn         = {2045-2322},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  publisher    = {Nature Publishing Group},
  series       = {Scientific Reports},
  title        = {Mercury as a Geophysical Tracer Gas - Emissions from the Emperor Qin Tomb in Xi´an Studied by Laser Radar},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-67305-x},
  doi          = {10.1038/s41598-020-67305-x},
  volume       = {10},
  year         = {2020},
}