Applying Nuclear Activation Analysis to the Study of Toxic Elements in Cotton Seeds
Developing a Temporal Data Mining (TDM) System for In-Situ Decommissioning (ISD) Sensor Network Test Bed
Improved Environmental Management and Computational Sciences Project at SC State University
Computer Simulations of Nuclear Processes and Fluid Dynamics
Web-based Spectra Analysis Software for Nuclear Activiation Analysis
Radiochemistry/Health Physics/Nuclear Engineeering

Applying Nuclear Activation Analysis to the Study of Toxic Elements in Cotton Seeds

Cotton has been an important cash crop in the Palmetto State since revolutionary times to current day. Its seeds are about 15% of the value of the crop and used widely in making oil and feeding animals. Throughout the growing season, cotton assimilates numerous trace elements from the soil, including the toxic ones. Some of these trace elements are accumulated or enriched in cotton seeds.

Nuclear activation analysis has been a versatile tool in multi-elemental analysis for more than half a century. After irradiation of the samples, qualitative and quantitative information of the elements can be obtained from the decay spectra recorded by gamma ray spectrometers. By analyzing samples of cotton seeds and the corresponding local soil with nuclear activation analysis, it is possible to determine the level of trace elements with high accuracy and extreme sensitivity, and establish a relationship between the amount of toxic trace elements in the cotton seeds and the level of heavy metal contamination in the local soil.


(1) Cotton extract numerous trace elements from local soil, including toxic ones (Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, etc.). These toxic trace elements are accumulated/enriched in seeds.
(2) The amount of toxic elements in cotton seeds is an indicator of the heavy metal contamination of the local soil where the cotton grows.

(1) Analyzing samples of cotton seeds and their corresponding local soil with nuclear activation analysis;
(2) Investigate the relationship of toxic elemental level in the crop with heavy metal contamination of local soil.

(1) A detailed survey map of toxic elements level in cotton seeds in South Carolina;
(2) A detailed survey map of toxic elements level in cotton farm soil in South Carolina;
(3) A survey map of toxic elements level in cotton seeds in the United States/World.

Potential Impact:
(1) One of the first attempts to study crops with nuclear activation analysis;
(2) Data collected can be used for future references;
(3) Demonstrate the environmental impact of human behavior on traditional cash crops and food industry.

Research Methods:
(1) Sample Collection and Preparation: cotton seeds samples are collected in the South Carolina/United States/World; soil samples are collected in cotton farms at South Carolina; All the samples are prepared in the Applied Radiation Sciences Laboratory (APSL) at the South Carolina State University (SCSU).
(2) Irradiation and Measurement: irradiations are conducted at the PULSTAR Reactor at the North Carolina State University. Spectra measurements and gamma counting of samples are conducted at the ARSL at SCSU.
(3) Data Analysis: peak fitting and spectra analysis are performed by computer clusters at the ARSL. Some statistical models (Linear discriminant analysis, principal components analysis, etc.) are adopted in the data processing.