Analytical Services

Earth Sciences Building (ESB)

The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences houses a variety of state-of-the-art facilities where analytical services are offered to academics and industry professionals alike. Learn more about the facilities in the descriptions below.

  • Arctic Resources Laboratory

    Location: Earth Sciences Building

    The Arctic Resources Geochemistry Laboratory is a world-class geochemical research laboratory that focuses on using trace element and radiogenic isotopes to understand the formation of solid-Earth natural resources in Canada's Arctic and beyond.

    Analytical Services include:

    Re-Os dating of ultramafic and mafic rocks;
    platinum Group Element analysis (Os, Ir, Ru, Pt, Pd & Re) of rocks and minerals;
    tracer Lu-Hf, Sm-Nd and Rb-Sr plus dating of low level ultramafic and mafic rocks plus volcanics, including kimberlites;
    laser ablation trace element analyses including high resolution Ni-in-garnet dating;
    trace element and Sr-Nd-Pb isotope tracing of diamonds and other gems;
    laser-ablation common Pb isotope tracing of Earth materials;
    and laser ablation trace elements of carbonates and oxides.


    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Graham Pearson
    Lab Manager: Dr. Sarah Woodland
    Laser Ablation Facility Manager: Dr. Yan Lou


    $10M Canada Excellence Research Chair grant to Graham Pearson & matching funds from University of Alberta
    $1.6M CFI - Alberta Innovates - Isomass Scientific grant
  • C.M. Scarfe Laboratory

    Location: ESB B-02 and B-06

    Research activities in the C.M. Scarfe lab are extremely varied and include determination of conditions at which melting occurs within the earth, determination of the stability of different minerals and mineral assemblages, and conditions of growth of natural diamond.


    The equipment in the lab allows simulation of conditions inside the earth to depths of approximately 800 km.

    The laboratory houses:

    a USSA-2000 uniaxial split-sphere multianvil press with a P-T-range up to 25 GPa (800 km depth) and >2500ºC;
    two piston cylinder apparatus with PT-range up to 3.5 GPa and 1600°C;
    1 atm furnaces for experiments up to 1600ºC;
    and a workshop with lathes, a surface grinder, a diamond saw, as well as grinding and polishing equipment.


    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert Luth
    Technician: Diane Caird
  • Canadian Centre for Isotopic Microanalysis (Ion Microprobe)

    Location: CCIS L2-305

    The aim of the Canadian Centre for Isotopic Microanalysis (CCIM) is to provide Canadian and international researchers in academia, government, and industry with access to leading-edge instrumentation and research expertise in geochemistry and geochronology. CCIM is dedicated principally to research on mineral and energy resources.


    CCIM encompasses 315 m2 of state-of-the-art clean room laboratories and 430 m2 of instrument space, housing:
    Canada's only multi-collector high resolution ion microprobe;
    six inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometers (including multicollector types);
    one solid state and two gas (excimer) UV laser systems;
    and six thermal ionization mass spectrometers, including the only multi-ion counting TIMS in Canada.

    The CCIM team uses unique analytical instruments and lab facilities, and develops special techniques to analyse the smallest ('micro') quantities of minerals for a range of isotopes. Isotopes are powerful tracers of geological processes and history, and CCIM is here to unlock their potential in your rocks and minerals.


    Established in 2008 as a University of Alberta academic centre through amalgamation of existing and planned isotope facilities, CCIM has since attracted over $28M in infrastructure investments from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Alberta Innovates (AI), the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) program, and the University of Alberta.

    The Centre is also supported by extensive sample preparation and characterization facilities and machine shops.

  • Crustal Re-Os Geochronology Laboratory

    Location: Earth Sciences Building

    The main focus of the Crustal Re-Os Geochronology Laboratory is the development and application of Re-Os geochronology of crustal matrices, such as sulfide minerals, organic-rich shales and natural hydrocarbons.


    This 800 ft2 laboratory is a recently constructed M3.5 / ISO Class 5 cleanroom with M2.5 / ISO Class 4 laminar flow workstations used for the chemical separation of various elements prior to mass spectrometric analysis (TIMS or MC-ICP-MS).

    The laboratory has dedicated rooms for the processing of high-abundance Re-Os samples such as molybdenite, and for the processing of low-abundance samples such as pyrite. It also offers Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd and Pb-Pb isotopic analysis for a variety of sample types such as rock, mineral, and ore samples, as well as natural waters, brines, vegetation and archeological material.


    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert A. Creaser


    Construction was funded by CFI, AET, and the University of Alberta, and was completed in 2011.

  • Electron Microprobe Laboratory

    Location: ESB B-10

    The Electron Microprobe Laboratory is equipped with two state-of-the-art Electron Probe Microanalyzers (EPMA), the CAMECA SX100 and the JEOL 8900. Each instrument features five wavelength dispersive spectrometers, and an energy dispersive spectrometer The EPMA's primary function is to provide major- and minor-element analyses of solid samples at the 1-5 micron scale. The instrument can also be used as an imaging tool, providing elemental X-ray maps, secondary and backscatter electron images and cathodoluminescence images.


    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tom Chacko
    Lab Manager: Dr. Andrew Locock
  • ICPMS Facility

    Location: ESB 1-26

    The ICPMS facility offers trace element and isotopic analyses for a wide range of isotope systems and matrices, including laser ablation U-Pb geochronology of zircon, titanite, monazite and baddeleyite, as well as Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Lu-Hf, Pb-Pb, analyses of rocks, minerals, ores and other samples.

    Current research projects involve: U-Pb dating of detrital zircon populations; in situ Sr isotopic investigations of high Sr phases such as teeth, plagioclase, and mantle clinopyroxene; and common Pb studies of various low-abundance Pb (~1 ppm) minerals.


    The ICPMS Facility-part of the larger Canadian Center for Isotopic Microanalysis (CCIM)-features:

    a NuPlasma Multi-Collector ICP Mass Spectrometer (MC-ICPMS),
    a Thermo Scientific ICAP-Q quadrupole ICPMS,
    a Perkin Elmer Elan 6000 quadrupole ICPMS,
    and two New Wave UP-213 laser ablation systems that allow solid sampling and spatial resolution for select matrices.


    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Andy Dufrane

  • Scanning Electron Microscope Lab

    Location: ESB 2-17


    The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Lab is equipped with two modern fully featured instruments: a Zeiss Sigma 300 VP-FESEM and a Zeiss EVO LS 15. The Zeiss Sigma Field Emission SEM operates in both high vacuum and variable pressure modes. It is equipped with secondary and backscattered electron detectors, an in-lens electron detector, a high resolution Bruker dual detector energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) system, and a cathodoluminescence (CL) detector. The Zeiss EVO SEM is equipped with a LaB6 electron source, secondary and backscattered electron detectors, and a Bruker EDS system. In addition to operating in high vacuum and variable pressure modes, it is also equipped with a water kit enabling the analysis of fully hydrated samples in an extended pressure mode.

  • Thin Section Laboratory

    Location: HH-105 (south of ESB)

    The Thin Section Laboratory provides material preparation for researchers and students. The lab is capable of preparing both standard or polish samples of most materials in configurations such as 1"x2" or 2"x3" slides, 1" block mounts, fluid inclusions and custom.

    Sample preps include rock, soil, pottery, bone, meteorite, paper, coal, metal, etc.


    Policy and Procedures for the Thin Section Lab (pdf)
    Thin Section Request Form (pdf)


    Supervisor: Mark Labbe
    Technician: Walter Harley
  • X-Ray Diffraction Laboratory

    Location: ESB 1-13

    The X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) Lab is used by researchers within and from outside the department, graduate and undergraduate students for their theses and projects as well as in undergraduate courses. In addition the Lab accepts samples from other universities across North America, industry and government agencies for analysis.


    The facility houses two Rigaku Powder X-Ray diffractometers. The Rigaku Geigerflex Powder Diffractometer is equipped with a cobalt tube, graphite monochromator and scintillation detector. The system has an online computer with analog and digital data processing capacity. Routine search/match is run on a separate computer using JADE 9.1 software and the ICDD and ICSD databases.

    The Rigaku Ultima IV comes with Cross Beam Optics which allows the operator to switch from parallel to focusing geometries. It is equipped with the following attachments:

    standard sample stage,
    ASC-10 Stage (automatic 10 position sample stage with spinner),
    capillary stage
    small area attachment (XYZ stage with video monitoring for small areas down to 0.5 mm diameter)
    low/medium temperature attachment (controls temperature from -180°C to 300°C)
    HT 1500 High Temperature attachment (controls temperature from room temperature to approximately 1350°C)

    Detectors for the Ultima IV include the Scintillation Detector with graphite monochromator, or the D/Tex ultra high speed position sensitive system with Kß filter to remove unwanted K-beta peaks. The Ultima IV Powder X-Ray Diffraction Machine also has a cobalt tube.

    The Ultima IV was purchased with a generous donation from Conoco Phillips.

    Sample Preparation

    Ideally samples should be ground to a fine powder less than 10 micron size fraction. The powdered samples are then mounted into holders that require 1-2 grams of powder each sample. Smaller samples can be mounted on zero-background plates.

    Please contact the XRD Technician for more information and for pricing.


    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Siobhan (Sasha) Wilson
    Technicians: Rebecca Funk, Katie Nichols