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On Saturday 31st July the CVE 04 series took place during the field test at the glacier in the Kaunertal Valley. This series was launched in reference to the CVE 03 that have been conducted during the last tests in Innsbruck in May 2010. The major idea was to track certain ways of contamination.
With this idea in the head an experimental design was set up. One attempt was to track backward-contamination from certain surfaces to the outer layer of the suit. In this experiment Quinine was used – a natural white crystalline alkaloid obtained from Cinchona trees that has distinct fluorescent features and is easy to detect.
Several surfaces and materials which were contaminated with a defined amount of Quinine were tested. The suit tester had to touch these surfaces and materials. In the next step the surface had to be sampled with a non-fluorescent adhesive tape. The science team transferred the tape into flasks filled with an acetic acid dilution. In a sour ambience the fluorescent property of Quinine is activated and contaminated samples can be detected under UV light.
The tested surfaces were ice and snow fields with attenuated amounts of Quinine. The different amounts were useful to detect whether the amount carried forward is strong enough to be detected or not. Because the Science Team had gone through some difficulties during previous tests in detecting very small amounts of the substance it was also decided to follow up with some tests in the laboratory.
Another experiment conducted on that day investigated the forward-contamination problem relating to sampling of ice cores. Ice cores can be of high value to science as ice tends to preserve anything from organic matter to air bubbles for extremely long periods of time. To obtain such ice cores, a drill has to be used. The tool? – It looks like an 1,5 m long pipe with a handle on one side and sharp spikes that can drilled into ice. But using this tool holds a big risk in contaminating the sample with foreign material. The standard procedure is to scratch off the outer layers of the gained ice. In this case, too much of the valuable sample is lost. Hence the idea came up to develop another way of decontaminating the ice core.
After contaminating the drill with microspherules, microscopic fluorescent latex beads, the sample was taken. This ice core sample was transferred into a cooling box and analyzed in the laboratory.
To find out how deep the contamination percolates into the matrix, the cores were melted down layer by layer. To ensure an even melting, the core was pierced and put on something like a split.
A heat source was placed close to the ice and the snowmelt was collected. To find out to which extend the contamination had happened the core was melted bit for bit and the snowmelt was filtrated using a standard laboratory Micro Filter. The filtrate was analyzed under the epifluorescence microscope and the number of microspherules was evaluated.
“The results have been ambiguous and it was not possible to prove that melting could lead to a more efficient way of minimize contamination risks”, Anna Kluibenschedl summarized the first pilot experiments, “but further test in the laboratory will follow where we hope to get a better look at the quantitative properties of the transfer. “
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