Analytical Equipment

Some of our equipment is considered part of a regional pool. Investigators with legitimate research needs are invited to contact the department to learn what arrangements are necessary to use our facilities in their work. Contact us for more information.

LA-ICPMS (Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer) Photon Machines Analyte G2 - Thermo Element 2

Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS) is an analytical technique used for elemental determinations. We are equipped with a Thermo Scientific ELEMENT 2, a high performance, double focusing magnetic sector field ICP-MS.

Aerosol samples are transported into the core of the inductively coupled argon plasma which generates temperatures of 600-10000 degrees C, where they are completely desolvated and ionized. The resultant ions are separated and collected by mass to charge ratios. The multi-elemental detector has the speed to handle transient signals such as those from laser ablation. It can measure elements across the periodic table from mg/L to sub pg/L concentration ranges.

We are equipped to run solution and laser ablation analyses. Our laser is a 193 nm Excimer laser from Photon-Machines for the ablation of any type of solid sample with no sample preparation procedures.

SEM/EDS (Scanning Electron Microscope / Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy) JEOL JSM-5610LV / Thermo Ultra Dry Detector

The department’s SEM has several imaging and operation modes. Realistic zoom range is from 50x to 50,000x or mm scale to µm scale objects. This varies with the type of sample and mode of operation.

With the exception of "Low Vacuum Mode" below, samples need to be electrically conductive or coated in a conductive coating. The department has both a carbon coater and a gold/palladium sputter coater. All imaging modes takes place in a high or low vacuum which could damage some delicate samples.

EDS, also known as Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis (EDX) is a qualitative or semi-quantitative elemental analysis method. The flatter the surface being analyzed, the better the results. The system can obtain elemental spectrum from the entire field of view, spots, selected areas, lines or create maps of elements. It can also create phase maps of similar spectrum.

XRD (X-ray Difractometer) Siemens D-500

XRD uses an x-ray source directed at a crystalline sample which diffracts the x-rays. This diffraction pattern is unique for specific materials and by comparing it to a library of known materials the unknown can be determined. Our diffraction library only includes natural minerals.

Samples are run as a homogenous powder. The most accurate results a generated when the sample particles are the same size and randomly oriented in the sample holder. The sample holders have a depression that is filled with the sample powder. About 1mg of sample is ideal but less will still produce a clean diffraction pattern if run for a longer time.

GCMS (Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry) Varian Saturn 3800 Gas Chromatograph / 2100 T Mass Spectrometer

Gas Chromatograph is used for identification and quantitation of the semi-volatile compounds which are previously extracted from various environmental samples.

A mixture of organic compounds in a liquid solvent is injected into an injector kept usually at a temperature between 200-300 °C. The sample instantly vaporizes and is carried in a stream of helium into a capillary column where it undergoes a separation based on the volatility and affinity of a specific compound to a stationary phase of the column. Separated compounds are transferred into an ion trap mass spectrometer, where they undergo the ionization and the detection.

IRMS (Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer) Thermo Scientific MAT 253 Mass Spectrometer and IRMS Thermo Scientific DELTAplus Advantage Mass Spectrometer

Two Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometers are used in the NIU Stable Isotope Laboratory (SIL), Thermo Fisher Scientific MAT 253 and Delta Plus Advantage. Samples can be analyzed directly in a dual inlet mode (e.g. CO2, O2, N2 gas) or after conversion to these simple gases using various online techniques.

Our laboratory is equipped with Elemental Analyzer (EA, Costech ECS 4010) that converts samples designated for carbon 13C/12C and nitrogen 15N/14N isotope analyzes to CO2 and N2 (Thermo-Finnigan DELTAplus Advantage). Samples frequently analyzed using EA include plant material, animal tissues, soil. In addition to the EA, a Gas Chromatograph (GC) is coupled to the same IRMS via a combustion interface (Thermo Fisher Scientific GC-C III), which allows us to analyze the stable carbon (13C/12C) or hydrogen (2H/1H) isotopes of a single organic compound.

To analyze hydrogen and oxygen stable isotopes in organic samples (e.g. cellulose) or inorganic, for example water, Thermal Conversion/Elemental Analysis (Thermo Finnigan TC/EA) is used. Sample is converted to H2 and CO using pyrolysis reactor and directed to the IRMS for measurements (2H/1H, 18O/16O).

Another sample preparation peripheral that is used online is the Gas Bench (Thermo Fisher Scientific), which is used to analyze carbonates, dissolved inorganic carbon or water for their isotope ratios of oxygen and/or carbon (18O/16O and 13C/12C). To analyze oxygen and silicon isotopes (18O/16O and 29Si/28Si, 30Si/28Si ) in quartz samples we first liberate oxygen as O2 and convert Si to SiF4 with the use of a fluorination reaction and a laser (Photon Machines Fusion 10.6 Laser) before transferring the gasses to IRMS (Thermo Fisher Scientific MAT 253).

Other Equipment

  • Webcam System
  • Phanton DH-D2 Remotely Operated Submersible Vehicle
  • GeoProbe 6600 Direct-Push Drill
  • Nikon Labphot-Pol and Labphot2-Pol Binocular Polarizing Microscopes
  • Denton Desk II Vacuum Coater
  • Fused Pellet Facility
  • Rock Saws and Sample Reduction Equipment
  • Sting/Swift multi-electrode resistivity system
  • Geonics EM-34 and EM31 electromagnetic conductivity units
  • Geonics VLF meter
  • Sensors and Software PulseEKKO IV ground-penetrating radar unit
  • Mt. Sopris MGX well logging system with caliper, EM and natural gamma tools
  • Two LaCoste-Romberg gravity meters
  • Geometrics Geode 24-channel seismograph with cables and a variety of geophones
  • Sensors and Software pulseEKKO-IV ground-penetrating radar system
  • Geometrics magnetometer and gradiometer
  • ABEM SAS 300B 4-electrode resistivity system
  • Downhole geophones, P- and shear-wave sources
  • Several S-6000 3-component surface seismometers for ground vibration monitoring
  • A broadband seismograph for earthquake monitoring and an active seismic station

Hydropressure Equipment

Optical Equipment

  • Meiji EMZ-5 Binocular Stereo Zoom stereoscopes (3)
  • Meiji EMZ-5TR Trinocular Stereo Zoom stereoscope (1)
  • Titan monocular zoom microscopes (2)
  • Nikon Petrographic Microscopes (2)
  • High-intensity fiber optic lights (6)

Carbon Arc Electrode Welder

Used to weld noble metal capsules (mostly Au and Pt), produce thermocouple connections, etc.

Miscellaneous Support Equipment

  • Barnstead/Thermolyne Benchtop Muffle Furnace
    (for synthesis of reactants and solid state sintering up to 1100 °C)
  • Automated polisher and grinder
  • Lab ovens
  • Oakton pH/mV/Ion/°C meter
  • Ultrasonic cleaner
  • Desiccators
  • Glassware

Contact Us

Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
Davis Hall, Room 312

815-753-0631 (undergraduate)
815-753-1943 (graduate)

815-753-1945 (fax)

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