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Laboratories

Laser tray
The argon lab laser tray.

We are one of the few state geological surveys that has a strong analytical laboratory group. We operatate facilities that can produce mineralogical, geochemical, and geochronological analyses on a wide range of materials. Most of our large collection of analytical equipment, whose collective value is in the millions of dollars, was purchased using federal, state, or private external funds. Our laboratories support geological research in New Mexico and beyond, by working with our employees, other researchers at New Mexico Tech, as well as at other universities or private entities. Our laboratories also contribute to the educational mission at New Mexico Tech and other academic institutions through support of student research projects, and classes on analytical methods. Our laboratories also provide hourly employment for a number of NMT students.

Lab Descriptions

Chemistry (and water quality analysis)
The analytical chemistry laboratory, established in the early 1960s, focuses primarily on inorganic water quality and environmental analyses.  The primary instruments in use include an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer, an inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer, and an ion chromatograph. Routine water analyses include trace metals, such as arsenic and uranium, and major anions and cations, such as chloride, sulfate and sodium.  Please contact the lab for more information about sample analysis and pricing.
Clay Material Testing
We have facilities to characterize the mineralogy and ceramic properties of clay materials. Testing capabilities include particle-size distribution analyses to measure the amounts of clay, silt and coarser material present; X-ray diffraction analyses to determine the mineralogy of both bulk-rock samples and clay-size material; and leaching tests to measure the amount of insoluble material present.
Electron Microprobe
A Cameca SX-100 electron microprobe came online at the Bureau of Geology in 1996. Unlike bulk chemistry techniques, the electron microprobe is well suited to non-destructive quantitative chemical analysis of very small spots (as small as one micron) on a sample surface. The electron microprobe can also produce fine-scale chemical maps of polished samples, and three-dimensional, high-magnification Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of rough sample surfaces.
New Mexico Geochronology Research Laboratory
The New Mexico Geochronology Research Laboratory, established in 1993, utilizes a variation of the K-Ar (40Ar/39Ar) dating method to determine highly precise ages for rocks and minerals. Rock ages are important to geologic mapping efforts in helping to correlate mappable  rock units, and in determining the timing of folding and/or faulting.
Perlite Testing
The Perlite Lab, established in 1985, is the main perlite testing facility for North America. The lab has a 4" x 40" vertical expansion furnace that is used for basic perlite testing, including perlite density, yield, sinkers, brightness, and others.
Soils Testing
Our soils laboratory is equipped to conduct a variety of mechanical and hydraulic tests on soil, sediment, and in some cases rock samples.
X-ray Diffraction (XRD)
Our X-ray facility provides chemical, mineralogical, and crystallographic analyses in support of the research, educational, and public-service programs of the Bureau of Geology and New Mexico Tech. It also serves agencies and industries of New Mexico by providing analyses that cannot be obtained through commercial sources.