Facilities & Labs - University of Houston
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Facilities & Labs

Allied Geophysical Laboratories

The AGL's mission is to create and apply new geophysical means of imaging and understanding the subsurface. We are particularly dedicated to conscientious resource discovery and recovery. Faculty members work with the energy industry, professional societies, and other institutions to develop advanced technologies and help in educating the next generation of geoscientists. We use scaled laboratory measurements, field surveys, numerical modeling, and digital processing to develop novel methods of subsurface analysis.

For more information, please visit the AGL website at www.agl.uh.edu

Carbonate Research Lab

The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is well equipped to carry out a wide range of investigations pertaining the origin and diagenesis of carbonates.

Field work:

Field work pertaining to carbonates ranges from Paleozoic through modern sediment accumulations. Standard field equipment is available for these studies. One of the research areas in which we have been active pertains to geochemistry and microbiology of the waters from which travertines and spelean accumulations precipitate. In support of that work we have built up a considerable amount of field equipment in duplicate (back-up), including portable T, pH, Conductivity, TDS, and dissolved oxygen meters, milliapore water filtration systems, titration kits, etc.


Geochemical Research: the department is equipped with ICP-MS for elemental analyses and mass spectrometers for stable isotopic analyses (see descriptions of ICP, Stable Isotope, and Hydrochemistry labs), as well as standard binocular, petrographic, cathodoluminescent, and flourescent microscopes with their complementary digital photographic add-ons. Additionally, SEM’s and microprobes are readily available.

Microbially induced mineral precipitates incubators, sterilizers, freezers, centrifuges, critical point drier (for preparation of biologic samples for SEM analysis), etc., are used to conduct investigations into the study of bacterially induced precipitates, primarily carbonates.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS Lab)

The department maintains a complete Geographic Information System which includes 20 licences of ArcView and ArcInfo GIS. Over 30 UNIX workstations can be utilized for GIS purposes. The Department offers several courses in GIS including:

  • Introduction to GIS (ArcInfo)
  • Introduction to GIS (ArcView)
  • GIS for Geologists
  • Image Processing and GIS

Geochemistry: ICP AES, ICP-MS

The department is equipped with a Thermo Jarrell Ash Atomscan 25 sequential Inductively Coupled argon Plasma (ICP) emission spectrometer that is designed to meet a wide variety of bulk rock, water, and archaelogical chemistry demands. The machine is built around an extremely rapid and reliable slew-scanning monochromator that offers both high resolution and wide wavelength coverage. It includes an auto sampler for 240 samples and a totally-automated plasma emission source.

Major and trace (including rare earth) elements are routinely analyzed for all types of rocks. Over 3000 igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and hundreds of water and archeological samples have been analyzed in the lab since its inception in 1990. A chromatography lab has been established to allow pre-separation and pre-concentration of rare earch elements for high-precision measurements by ICP.

For more information, please visit the ICP Analytical Research Laboratories section.

Hydrogeochemistry Lab

Equipment used in geochemical analysis associated with hydrogeochemistry projects include a Perkin-Elmer 5000 atomic absorption spectrophotometer, a Perkin-Elmer UV - visible spectrophotometer, a Perkin-Elmer 650-40 Flourescence Spectrophotometer, 2 Perkin-Elmer gas chromatographs with flame ionization detector, conductivity detectors, and a Varian 1400 and 1200 gas chromatographs with thermal conductivity detectors.

Hydrogeology Field Equipment

Equipment used in field studies in hydrogeology include a YSI model 58 dissolved oxygen meter and probe, Orion models SA720 (lab), 290A (field), and 230 (field) pH/Eh/ion, selective meters with numerous electrodes, Orion model 125 conductivity meter and probe, in-situ Hermit 2000 multichannel data logger and pressure transducers with computer interface, a Brainard-Kilman data logger and pressure transducer, power auger, Master-Flex peristaltic pump, Wattera pumps and Norton bailers, electronic water level indicator.

Petrology Lab

The department is well-equipped with a suite, a research compound, and petrographic microscopes. Special microscopes are dedicated to cathodoluminescence, flourescence, and vinitrite reflectance analyses. A number of the microscopes have built-in still cameras, 35mm and Polaroid formats. In addition, facilities exist to camcord images, display them on a CRT-screen, as well as digitize images and store, manipulate, etc., these within our Macintosh computer network. A Polaron Critical Point Dryer is available for fixing of organic matter for SEM analyses. A number of Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM's) exist on campus and are available for use by geoscientists.

Paleomagnetics Lab

The Paleomagnetics Research Laboratory (PRL) at UH comprises a two-component cryogenic magnetometer housed in a three layered magnetically shielded room constructed with high permeability silicon steel. Ambient magnetic fields within the shielded room are less than 200nT. The magnetometer has a large dynamic range (1.0 x 10-8 to 5.0 Gauss cm3) making it suitable for the measurement of the magnetization of a wide range of materials.

In addition to the magnetometer, there is a thermal demagnetization unit suitable for heating batches of samples between room temperature and 800 C: samples are cooled in a low field region (<1 nT) to prevent the acquisition of spurious magnetizations. There is also an alternating field magnetization unit (non-tumbling) which generates unidirectional demagnetizing fields between 0 and 100 nT for the study of coercivity spectra of the remnant magnetization of materials.

The magnetometer is interfaced with a microcomputer to facilitate the recording of data on floppy disc for later processing and analysis.

A second magnetically shielded room (two-layer mu-metal; ambient fields <200 nT) is currently used to store samples, and houses a MOLSPIN flux-gate spinner magnetometer which has a sensitivity of better than 1 x 10-7 emu/cc at 24 seconds and has an integration time of between 6 seconds (24 spins) or 24 seconds (120 spins). Investigators at the PRL also have access to a Franz Isodynamic Separator, which is capable of isolating magnetic grains from host rock material, and an electromagnet that can be used to study the isothermal remanence characteristics of paleomagnetic samples. This magnet is capable of producing uniform fields of 8 kOe over a volume suitable for typical paleomagnetic core samples and can be used to determine the saturation remanence of many magnetic minerals.

Platinum Group Element Geochemistry And Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer Laboratory

The TIMS (Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer) group is interested in understanding how the mantle lithosphere chemically exchanges with passing fluids and melts. This is a long-term project and is primarily focused on samples we have obtained in the SW USA. Other locales across the globe will be examined. These investigations integrate isotopic, trace element, major element, and mineralogic characteristics to constrain the effects of metasomatism in arc and non-arc continental mantle settings. One goal of the studies is to examine the link between stabilization of continental lithosphere and growth of the overlaying continental crust. Simply, are the ages of the mantle and overlying crust the same or are they decoupled? Answering this question will help us to understand the processes that lead to continental growth over Earth history.

Fore more information, please visit the TIMS website.

Stable Isotope Lab

Two (2) computer-controlled stable isotope ratio mass spectrometers (Finnegan MAT Delta E and Micromass 602) capable of measuring the isotope ratios 2H/1H, 13C/12C, 15N/14N, 18O/16O, and 34S/32S are maintained in teh Geosciences Department's stable isotope laboratories. Samples presently being analyzed include natural waters, carbonate rocks, and clay minerals.

Thermochronology Lab

A fully automated MAP 215-50 rare-gas mass spectrometer with an extraction line capable of heating samples both by resistance heating and CO2 laser is maintained in teh Thermochronology Lab. This instrument is used primarily in 40Ar/39Ar dating. This high resolution (>600), low-background mass (mass 36 <5 x 10-14 cm3 STP, mass spec is capable of measuring all variety of K - bearing geologic material including very young (<1 Ma) and very small samples (<5 mg). Although the focus of this lab is 40Ar/39Ar analysis, all other noble gases (including He) can be analyzed.

X-Ray Crystallography

The department maintains and rebuilt Phillips Norelco powder X-ray diffractometer which is available for faculty and student use. Single crystal cameras (Weissenberg and Burger Precession) and powder cameras are a part of the collection of devices housed in the department. Students receive training in safety and techniques prior to being allowed to operate the equipment.

Other Facilities

  1. International Research Group on Ostracoda (IRGO) - Dr. Rosalie F. Maddocks
  2. Students and faculty in the Department of Geosciences can use the equipment at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston (TCSUH), an institute with the university drawing on the physics, chemistry, and engineering faculty. Equipment of interests to geoscientists include:
    • A Jeol 8600 Superprobe electron microprobe
      • This is a four (4) WDS spectrometer electron microprobe, fully automated with Tracor Northern automation system, equipped with Kevex EDAX detector for EDS analysis.
      • Light element crystals are available for analysis of B, C, N, and O.
      • This instrument is used for a wide variety of analyses ranging from mineral analysis to back-scatter imaging of superconducting thin film samples.
      • A large number of mineral and synthetic standards are available.
    • A Jeol 2000 FX transmission electron microscope
      • This TEM has a resolution of 2.8 angstroms, with a minimum probe beam of 20 angstroms.
      • The instrument is equipped with both high angle EDS and horizontal EDS detectors, and is capable of convergent beam diffraction
    • A Seimens D5000 x-ray diffractometer with open Eulerian cradle
      • This XRD features full PC computer automation, data collection, and data processing.
      • The instrument is equipped with a Cu tube, graphite monochromator, and incident beam Soller slits.
      • An ope Eulerian cradle is installed and allows measurement of sample texture and collection of pole figures.