Materials Characterization

This is a shared Earth Science laboratory resource, which spans several laboratory facilities that are dedicated to understanding the composition and structure of Earth materials, including waters, soil, and rock. Major instrumentation includes ICP-OES, SEM, and XRD.

Inductively-Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) Lab

ICP-OES is a workhorse method for measuring elemental composition of any material that can be solubilized in water or solvent, from fresh rainwater and seawater to soil and rocks digested with strong acid.

Our instrument is a state-of-the-art Spectro ARCOS, operating in both radial and axial plasma views. Routine measurement includes ~20 major/trace elements with typical detection limits of ~1ppb.

The ICP-OES laboratory includes additional resources for sample preparation, including wet digestion of soils/rocks in mixed acid. Other procedures that require filtration, centrifugation, etc can also accomodated.


Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) is used to image a sample at high-resolution with a focused beam of electrons. We currently have a Hitachi TM3000 SEM with Bruker EDS. Sample surface topography and composition can be observed at a magnification up to ~30,000x. Using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) sample chemistry can be measured with spot sizes of only a few microns.


X-ray diffraction (XRD) is a critical tool for nearly all Earth Scientists. Within the Department of Earth Sciences, we maintain an XRD laboratory equipped with a Bruker D8-Focus diffractometer. Data analysis is handled by Bruker Eva and Topas software as well as the PDF database. 

This instrument is contained within a dedicated laboratory facility that also has general equipment for the isolation and preparation of mineral suspensions for analysis. In addition to this facility, several other diffractometers, for both powder and single crystal, are available in nearby campus facilities.

Lab Team

Supervisors: Ed Meyer or Josh Landis

Phone: (603) 646-0607 (XRD Lab),

            (603) 646-6564 (Josh Landis)



  • Estimation for percent illite in illite/EG-smectite from Moore & Reynolds (1997) (PDF on campus only)
  • Clay Prep Procedures - Glass Slide Mount from Moore & Reynolds (1997) (PDF on campus only)
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy - Carleton Guide (PDF)
  • Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy - Carleton Guide (PDF)

Quant Software

  • RockJock - Quantitative Mineralogy from XRD (USGS FTP)
  • MudMaster - Crystalline size distribution and strain from XRD (USGS FTP)
  • GALOPER - Shape of Crystal size distribution from XRD (USGS FTP)

Lab Equipment

  • Centrifuges (including a high speed 20,000 rpm unit)
  • Blender (clay disaggregation)
  • Ovens
  • Magnetic separator
  • Sonicator
  • McCrone Mill