A New Method for Measuring Total Soil Carbon has Been Developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory


New laser technology provides rapid-fire measurement of soil carbon, and the approach addresses an important National and International need for direct measurement of carbon in field locations. The method is an application of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), which makes measuring carbon in soils a much simpler operation, with improved accuracy and precision, and opportunity to produce large-scale carbon inventories. David Cremers, Michael Ebinger, David Breshears, and Pat Unkefer developed the method, and results are published this month in the Journal of Environmental Quality. LIBS will allow investigators to examine hundreds of replicate soil samples over a time frame of minutes to hours, which is a great advance over conventional analytical methods. Soil scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are enthusiastic with LIBS, and we expect that the application of this fast, accurate, and efficient method will advance soil science, and will be a strategic contribution to global carbon cycle research.