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. 

The Photo Machines analyte 193 nm G2 eximer laser ablation system can be coupled with the Element 2 ICP-MS, or with the Mat 253 mass spectrometer. The laser has a focusing spot size that ranges from 2 to 250 microns and includes a Helix two-volume sample cell that allows for the efficient transport of sample into the mass spectrometer of choice. This cell minimizes washout times and enables sequential, rapid, reliable analysis of multiple ablation sites.

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.

This is primarily used for the determination of anions in waters, such as nitrate, chloride, bromide and the like and is currently being configured to analyze transition metals as well. The computer software interface with the instrument provides for automated data recording and reduction and allows use of a variety of analytical schemes.

Dionex DX500 Usage Calendar - Contact Doug Sterner at for access, Google account required.

This microscope runs under "low vacuum" -- the "LV" part of "JSM-5610LV." This means it can run natural dry or frozen materials without the conductive coating, commonly gold or carbon, which was formerly required in SEM work -- a distinct advantage because the microscope will be heavily used in the study of microfossils such as diatoms and foraminifera.

It is equipped with an EDX unit for compositional determinations, which can "see" all the way down the periodic table to carbon with an ultra-thin window on the detector which can do image mapping of compositional gradients. The instrument can also do cathodoluminescence, which is the method of choice for looking at the formation of cements and grain overgrowths in sedimentary materials. The generation and output of images are entirely computer-controlled.

Jeol JSM-5610LV Usage Calendar - Contact Josh Schwartz at for access, Google account required.

This machine is used to generate diffractograms of powdered minerals, which in turn allow determination of crystallographic parameters (the "d-spacing"). With this information, the user can identify the mineral species, sometimes specify the composition, or determine the structural state of the material under study.

The instrument is used to analyze very small areas of sample, some 10 microns in size or smaller, in polished section. One can use it to look, for instance, at compositional zoning in minerals, or variations in mineral composition within an igneous intrusion.

We are grateful to BP-Amoco Corporation for donating this.

The instrument uses an X-ray beam to determine the particle-size distribution of sediment samples. The information gained is useful in classifying fine-grained sediments and determining their environment of deposition and mode of origin. The SediGraph is kept in and Ross Powell's lab.

This is actually two different analytical instruments hooked together. The gas chromatograph is used to separate organic molecules from one another and the mass spectrometer is used as a detector to identify them. It is part of and Melissa Lenczewski's organic geochemistry lab and is used for the detection, or monitoring during clean-up, of such contaminants as pesticides, gasoline and organic solvents.

The MAT 253 is the workhorse of the NIU isotope facility. Peripheral device include:
  • Gas Bench for O and C isotope analyses in carbonates and water
  • Thermal Conversion Elemental Analyzer (TCEA) for O and H isotope analyses in water, cellulose and other compounds
  • Laser fluorination line with a Photon Machines Fusion 10.6 Laser for O and Si isotope analyses of silicate minerals and S isotope analyses. (coming soon!)

The Delta and Costech Elemental Analyzer (EA) is dedicated to C, N and S isotope analyses of organic and inorganic materials. and Justin Dodd (Geology) and and Holly Jones (Biology) are jointly developing research projects that utilized C and N isotopes to understand biogeochemical processes.

Other Equipment

  • 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

Geology and Environmental Geosciences
Davis Hall 312

815-753-1943 (tel)
815-753-1945 (fax)