Scientific activities of the Environmental Physics Group (EPG) are centered around problems associated with the use of natural variability of isotopic composition of light elements (hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen) in environmental research, in particular related to cycling of water and carbon in the environment. Both stable and radioactive isotopes are being employed. In addition, methodological developments focusing on various analytical methods associated with determination of natural radioactivity levels in various matrices (rocks, soil, water , air, biological material) are pursued.
Environmental Physics Group is also active in the field of atmospheric physics, with emphasis on research of atmospheric trace gases contributing to greenhouse effect. Systematic measurements of atmospheric concentrations of major greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) are performed on remote mountain sites (Kasprowy Wierch, Tatra Mountains) as well as in urban environment (Krakow). The measurements are performed using gas chromatography and Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy techniques.
The Group conducts research on the concentration of natural and artificial alpha-, gamma- and beta-emitting radionuclides in the natural environment (geological samples, soil, plants, food) and around mining facilities and natural gas transport network, using the alpha-, gamma- ray spectrometry and liquid scintillation counting (LSC) methods. Research is conducted on the concentration of radon (222Rn) in natural gas and lead (210Pb) in solid waste generated by natural gas industry. In addition, measurements of the concentration of natural alpha and beta-radionuclides (238U, 234U, 228Ra, 226Ra, 224Ra, 222Rn, 210Pb, 210Po) are carried out in water samples.
Environmental Physics Group is a leading centre in Poland in applications of isotope tracer methods in hydrology. Laboratories of EPG perform complex investigations of isotopic composition of surface and groundwater systems (concentration of tritium and radiocarbon, concentration of uranium, radium and thorium isotopes, stable isotope ratios of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon). Environmental isotope data play an important role in addressing the following issues: origin and age of groundwater, (ii) transport processes in unsaturated zone, (iii) diagnostics of water hazard in mines, (iv) groundwater vulnerability to pollution, and (v) development and management of mineral water resources.