Geolabs: Laboratory Facilities and Equipment

The Geolabs are equipped for various geographical sciences services. The field equipment services complement the services offered by the laboratories. Also, some instruments housed in the Geolabs can be used for field work. The laboratories serve undergraduate teaching and provide research facilities for MPhil, DPhil students and post-doctoral researchers.

Physical and Textural Analysis

In the Geolabs, physical and textural analyses are performed on stone, mortar or soil samples.

Some mechanical properties can be obtained:

  • On our Matest Unitronic Load Frame 50kN to measure compressive, flexural and tensile strengths.


Non-destructive tests can be done using the:

  • Grindosonic MK5 'Industrial', for measurement of elastic properties of rocks and mortars.
  • Proceq Equotip 3 and Proceq Equotip Piccolo Bambino 2 to test hardness.
  • Silver and Digital Schmidt Hammers for measurement of hardness / compressive strength.
  • Proceq PunditLab and Pundit PD8050 for testing of ultrasonic pulse velocity and pulse echo.
  • Spectrophotometer CM-700d Konica Minolta and a Coulor Sensor (Nix Pro 2) to analyse colour.
  • Gloss meter TQC sheen.
  • Proceeq GP8800,Ground Penetrating Radar for structural imaging.
  • The Specim Hyperspectral Camera   with its powerful imaging technology and the FLIR C3-X thermal camera   can be used for a full range of environmental applications like thermal, Colour and surface characterisations.


For soils' traditional particle size analysis, the Geolabs house a variety of sieves ranging from large diameter gravel sieves up to 63 µm and a sieve shaker. Particle size analysis in the Geolabs is now mainly performed using the Malvern Laser Particle Sizer Mastersizer 2000. We are equipped with a wet unit for soils and sediments and a dry unit for dust with a high concentration in soluble particles.

The loss on Ignition technique can be used to measure water, organic and calcium carbonate contents in soils and sediments with our muffle furnace Carbolite.

The Geolabs house an optical scanning Mephisto EOS 3D Scanner to determine changes in surface roughness overtime. This technique is used to quantify morphological changes of stone materials.

With analytical balances Sartorius M3P and Sartorius BL 120S, high accuracy and precision of any changes of mass are determined.

Environmental Chemical Analysis

Environmental chemical analyses are performed in the Geolabs using the following instruments and techniques.

Ion Chromatography with a Dionex ICS-5000 Chromatograph  equipped with an AS-AP autosampler, this technique analyses water mineral composition, nutrients in soils and soluble minerals in stone building materials. Two different columns allow us to determine Chloride, Nitrate, Nitrite, Sulfate, Bromide, Fluoride and Phosphate, Potassium, Sodium, Calcium and Magnesium.

PerkinElmer NexION 2000 ICP Mass Spectrometer, ICP-MS stands for inductively coupled plasma-mass-spectrometry and is a technique to determine the concentrations of trace elements in solutions. By introducing nebulised liquid sample to a highly energised plasma, this spectrometric method is capable of detecting metals and several non-metals at concentrations as low as parts per billion. ICP-MS is widely used to analyse water as well as dissolved geochemical, environmental and biological samples.

Leco TruMac CNS Analyser, model 630-300-200 with sulphur analysis capability,  this instrument analyses total carbon, nitrogen and sulfur compositions in soils, plant tissues as well as waters. Samples placed in ceramic boats enter a combustion chamber, in a pure oxygen environment at a temperature up to 1450°C. CO2, N2 and SO2 combustion products concentrations are measured by IR and thermal detection cell systems.

DR 3900 Hach spectrophotometer, for the determination of the chemical composition of waters mainly.

Using the same spectrophotometric technique, with the BioTek Epoch Microplate Reader, we can quantify a wide range of biological and chemical materials in plants, soils, sediments or rocks as well as waters.

pH, Electrical conductivity EC, Oxidation Reduction Potential ORP, total dissolved solid TDS, Dissolved Oxygen DO are analysed in waters or aqueous media using various Hanna Instruments meters and high sensitivity electrodes.

Microscopy and Imaging

The Geolabs are equipped with various microscopy and imaging instruments:

  • Several polarizing microscopes MEIJI ML900 for rocks mineralogical analysis.
  • 2 Leica stereomicroscopes, the MZ10F  equipped with fluorescence and the S8 APO are used for observations and analysis of any material sample.
  • A brightfield upright Olympus BX43 microscope with LED light source equipped with Olympus SC50 camera for anatomical analysis of plant tissues as well as stone structures.
  • Different microscope cameras are interchangeably attached to the microscopes and used with tablets and/or different softwares for image analysis.
  • Various USB microscopes

Environmental cabinets

The Geolabs house 3 Environmental cabinets for environmental simulations of rock breakdown, landscape evolution, weathering of historical monuments and the effects of bio-soiling on rocks' weathering:

  • Sanyo-FE 300H/MP/R20
  • Sanyo-MLR-351
  • Binder KBF115

Moisture Analysis

Moisture is an important parameter to examine and analyse in the Geolabs research projects. We use different instruments to give a scientific estimation of the water contents in various stone or mortar building materials. Moisture meter instruments are also used for field work. The Geolabs possess various moisture meters:

  • Electric Resistivity meters Protimeter and Resipod
  • Dielectric Constant Capacitance meters FMW, CEM, T660 and Protimeter
  • Dielectric microwave meters Moist 350B, T610
  • Electric Resistivity Tomography (ERT) - GeoTom  by Geolog2000.

Samples Preparation Instruments

Microwave to digest soil, rocks and plants: Mars 6 CEM

Rock cutting saws:

  • Masonry Saw-Clipper CM 501 Major
  • Tile Saw-Jolly Max
  • Rock saw - Delta Buehler