06:48am Wednesday 16 October 2019

Volcanic ash up close


volcanic ash particles

It was impossible to see individual particles of ash with the naked eye, but the University of Reading has captured images which show the fascinating make-up of the outpourings from the Icelandic volcano.

The dust was taken from the windscreen of a car using techniques borrowed from forensic science – sticky tape!

The images were obtained using a scanning electron microscope in the Centre for Advanced Microscopy (CfAM). It used the x-ray spectroscopy facility to provide an analysis of the elements present in the dust – mostly silicon but also aluminium, iron and titanium.

The images, taken by Dr Laura Felisari and Dr Mark Peace, show mostly volcanic dust but also some pollen particles.

Professor Geoffrey Mitchell, Director of CfAM said: “It is fascinating to see the variety of shapes ranging from the angular sharp edged particles which could cause problems for aircraft through to near perfect spheres about one sixth the width of a human hair.”


For more information please contact Rona Cheeseman, press officer, on 0118 378 7388 or email r.cheeseman@reading.ac.uk

 Notes to editors

The Centre for Advanced Microscopy provides cutting edge microscopy services and solutions for the life, medical and physical sciences.  A comprehensive suite of imaging techniques enable scientists to reveal details of structures at the atomic level through the nano scale regime up to the macroscopic level.

University of Reading:

The University of Reading is rated as one of the top 200 universities in the world (THE-QS World Rankings 2009).

The University of Reading is one of the UK’s top research-intensive universities. The University is ranked in the top 20 UK higher education institutions in securing research council grants worth nearly £10 million from EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, AHRC and BBSRC. In the RAE 2008, over 87% of the university’s research was deemed to be of international standing. Areas of particular research strength recognised include meteorology and climate change, typography and graphic design, archaeology, philosophy, food biosciences, construction management, real estate and planning, as well as law.

Standards of teaching are excellent – the University scored highly in the National Student Survey 2009.  87% of Reading students responding to the survey stated they were satisfied with the quality of their course.

The University is estimated to contribute £600 million to the local economy annually.

University of Reading is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience. www.1994group.ac.uk

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