Environmental Quality Laboratory

Environmental Quality Laboratory

Located in Lab 1 in Building EMC2, the Environmental Quality Laboratory is used primarily for the structural and elemental analysis of soils, sediments, rocks, artefacts and other materials. The Lab also hosts three Hach spectrophotometers, soil hydraulics equipment (UMS Ksat, Darcy boxes) and a range of other equipment for materials analysis. Major analytical capability includes:

X-Ray Diffractometry (XRD)

X-ray diffractometry is a means whereby the structural arrangement of crystalline materials (silicates, some metals, some plastics etc) can be determined. Mineral identification is obtained by comparing the diffraction pattern of a sample with a database of diffraction patterns. We use two diffractometers. 

  • The PANalytical X’Pert Pro MPD diffractometer is a large, laboratory-based multipurpose instrument, with a 45 position sample changer, automatic slits, and a range of other parts which change geometries (e.g. parallel beam) or increase functionality (e.g. multi-purpose sample stage for large samples, or X-ray capillaries for small samples).
  • The Olympus Terra is a small, battery-powered instrument for the collection of diffractograms from powders in transmission geometry. The Terra can be used in field laboratories, and is routinely used for teaching and research in remote areas.

X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF)

X-ray fluorescence spectrometry is a means of determining the elemental composition of materials including solids, liquids and gases. The Environmental Quality Laboratory has six XRF spectrometers set up for different matrices (e.g. solids and liquids) and applications. 

  • For solids in the laboratory, we have a PANalytical Epsilon 3 XL (Rh tube, 50 kV, F-U, 10 position sample changer).
  • The Epsilon 3 and the PANalytical MiniPal 2 (Mo tube, 30 kV, Al-U, 12 position sample changer).
  • Liquids (or more correctly the dried evaporites from liquids) are measured using the Bruker S2 Picofox, a 50 kV, Mo tube, Total Reflection XRF (TXRF) spectrometer. TXRF is an exciting method which has limits of quantification in the 10 µg/kg range for Row 4 elements.
  • Analyses of solids can conducted in the field, using one of three Olympus Delta Pro spectrometers. We have a 40 kV (Rh tube), 50 kV (Ta tube) and 50 kV (Au tube) for various applications either in true hand-held mode, or they can be operated in a radiation-proof desktop test stand. The Olympus spectrometers have "soil feet" with poles which make measurements at ground level easier, and we have one GPS/data recording unit which mounts on top of a pole, recording spatial information.

Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)

We have a handheld, battery-powered SciAps Z-500 LIBS instrument (http://sciaps.com/libz/z-500/) for the elemental analysis of many elements, but including Row 2 and Row 3 elements, in the field or laboratory.

The Environmental Quality Laboratoryassists research programs for our staff, students, colleagues and collaborators. Although it is not a commercial facility. There are three tiers of user charges depending on whether you belong to Environmental Sciences, the University, or are an external user, and also depending on consumables and labour time. If you wish to use the laboratory or its equipment, please contact facilities manager Russell Field – russell.field@mq.edu.au

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