Emeritus Professor Phil Hopke Conducting research in Vermont

The focus of CARES is to provide a better and more complete scientific basis for air quality management. We strive to understand the sources, transport and chemistry that give rise to indoor and outdoor exposure to air pollutants, including noise, their potential health and welfare effects, and ways in which these effects can be reduced or eliminated.

CARES brings together the world-class expertise that is available at Clarkson. This expertise is focused in air sampling and analysis, receptor modeling, atmospheric deposition and the application of computational fluid dynamics to air pollution problems.

CARES interacts with the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems and other institutions such as Cornell University, the University of Rochester, SUNY ESF and SUNY Albany. Although each institution has their own focused research mission, there are important intersections of their strengths that CARES can utilize to build an integrated, state-wide research center dedicated to focusing on air quality issues. By enhancing already existing capabilities and forging active collaborative alliances, we provide critical new information on air resources and innovative new approaches for managing indoor and outdoor air quality within a competitive economic environment.

Recent Research

Air Pollution

Students conducting air sampling research

The presence of contaminants in the atmosphere can produce a wide variety of adverse effects, including increased mortality and morbidity in the public, deterioration of buildings and monuments, acidification of lakes and rivers, and forest and crop damage. The adverse health effects of atmospheric contaminants cannot be avoided by staying inside, since ambient air is transported indoors along with its pollutants and indoor sources can add to the problems. Although we have substantially improved the ambient air quality over the past 30 years, a number of problems that are attributed to air pollution remain. Recent studies have found strong correlations between changes in particle concentrations and increased mortality. Additionally, there has been a sharp rise in childhood asthma.

Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program

This program is the revision of a program started in the 1970’s with the objective of monitoring fish contaminants in the Great Lakes. In this program, the sampling has been simplified and additional emphasis has been placed on identifying emerging contaminants that may pose a risk to the Great Lakes. Clarkson has operated this program since 2005, and we have modernized legacy pollutant measurements by developing efficient sample processing and analysis procedures.

Professor Thomas Holsen conducting research aboard the Lake Guardian

Improvements include lowering detection limits, adding additional chemicals to the analyte list, scanning for and identifying emerging contaminants and including the routine analyses of fish eggs. We have also enhanced the program by developing working relationships with laboratories from other federal agencies, states and countries.

NYSTAR Environmental Quality Systems Center

We are one of the 12 universities and research institutions comprising the New York State Office of Science, Technology & Academic Research (NYSTAR) Environmental Quality Systems (EQS) Center related to environmental systems.

The EQS Center brings together multidisciplinary teams to measure, model and suggest implementation strategies that will lead to improved atmospheric conditions, including those in the ambient atmosphere, indoor atmospheres in homes and hospitals, and controlled atmospheres in commercial manufacturing operations and office workplaces.

CARES Equipment & Facilities
CARES has analytical facilities that house a number of major instruments, as well as laboratory space specifically designed to support research. The four major types of instruments are an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) system, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometery (LC-MS) systems, and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) systems, including a 2-D gas chromatograph/high-resolution mass spectrometer system.

X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer
A SPECTRO XEPOS + gas purge (8 targets) is available for XRF analysis. This system includes a polarized X-ray beam to reduce the scattered X-rays that contribute background to the fluoresced X-ray spectra providing a higher signal-to-noise ratio.

Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectrometry
A Thermo Electron ICP-MS XSeries II system is available. The innovative infinity ion lens ion optics, based on a hexapole design with chicane ion deflectors, provides the lowest background specification of any quadrupole ICP-MS. This system has been used extensively to analyze air filters, soils and sediments, and biological samples.

Organic and Elemental Carbon
For carbon analysis in particle samples, two approaches are available: the NIOSH 5040 and the IMPROVE protocol. The NIOSH method is implemented in the Sunset Laboratory OC/EC analyzer, while the IMPROVE protocol is available from the DRI Model 2001. We have both units and can provide either protocol.

Gravimetric Analysis
Mass concentrations are measured by gravimetry using a Sartorius MC5 microbalance in our temperature- and humidity-controlled class 1000 clean room. We continuously monitor the temperature and relative humidity to ensure compliance with 40CFR50 Appendix L requirements for the 24-hour equilibration of the filter before and after exposure to ambient aerosols.

Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry
A ThermoElectron LCQ Advantage Max LC-MS/MS ion trap system is available with a new high performance API source. We have ESI, APCI and nano-spray probes. The system includes full scan, SIM, MS/MS product ion, SRM, and zoom scan capabilities.

We also have a Waters Xevo quadrupole time-of-flight (QTof) mass spectrometer. This exact-mass (>10,000 res.), bench-top instrument is one of the most sensitive and versatile bench-top QTof systems ever produced to collect “all of the data, all of the time.”

Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry

We have two GC-MS systems, namely, a BC-ion trap mass spectrometer and a GC-quadrupole mass spectrometer. The TRACE gas chromatograph is equipped with single channel digital pressure/flow control and is capable of multilevel temperature control with a maximum oven temperature of 450 C.

Multidimensional Gas Chromatography
Our latest addition is a LECO Pegasus 4D GCxGC-TOFMS. This state-of-the-art system combines comprehensive gas chromatography with the exact mass resolution of a Pegasus HT TOFMS. This instrument is used for analyzing complex samples, primarily for emerging contaminants.

Sample Preparation

Before samples can be analyzed, they need to be acid-digested. We have acquired a CEM MARSXpress that can produce temperatures of up to 260° C and pressures of 500 psi for rapid sample digestion and processes up to 40 samples at a time.

Our DIONEX ASE300 Accelerated Solvent Extraction system prepares organic samples for processing. This unit uses elevated temperature and pressure, permitting rapid extraction of the samples with a much smaller volume of solvent than a conventional Soxhlet extraction system.

The lab also has a Fluid Management Systems (FMS) PowerPrep SPE Automated One-Step Extraction and Concentration System and an automated gel permeation chromatography (GPC) system for handling multiple samples simultaneously.

Mercury Analyses
Our mercury analysis laboratory can analyze solids, water and biota for total mercury and methyl mercury.


Many faculty from different departments collaborate with CARES. In addition, we work closely with the Institute for a Sustainable Environment, where we also have faculty appointed.