skip all navigation
skip banner links
skip primary navigation

Laboratories

We are one of the few state geological surveys that has a strong analytical laboratory group. We operate 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

Apatite Fission Track Thermochronology
apatite crystal with fission tracks
Complete apatite fission-track (AFT) dating facilities are available at the New Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources. We have a mineral separation lab for concentrating apatite and zircon, and we maintain facilities for mounting, polishing and etching the samples. We date the samples using the external detector method. We have a dedicated petrographic microscope with a stage fitted with a digital micrometer that allows easy, precise translation between the grain mount and the external detector.
Chemistry (and water quality analysis)
Graduate student using ion chromatography system
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.
Economic Geology Laboratory
Chino/Santa Rita mine
We have facilities to characterize a variety of samples related to the hard-rock and industrial minerals industry. Testing capabilities include clay material testing, mineral separation, soil and rock characterization, gravimetric moisture content, ABA & NAG, slake durability, petrographic analysis, and PXRF.
Electron Microprobe
Electron Microprobe Backscatter Electron Image
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
NMGRL logo
Our argon laboratory, established in 1992, 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.
Ore Deposits & Critical Minerals
Alex Gysi
The Ore Deposits and Critical Minerals experimental laboratory (ODCM Lab) was established in the NMBGMR in Fall 2020 and is equipped to conduct hydrothermal fluid-rock experiments to study the stability of minerals and speciation of metals relevant to ore-forming processes at high temperatures. The ODCM Lab is currently supported by NSF and DOE grants with a focus on the properties of rare earth elements (REE) in hydrothermal aqueous fluids.
Perlite Testing
Perlite from Socorro, NM
The Perlite Laboratory, 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
Particle size equipment
Our soils laboratory is equipped to conduct a variety of mechanical and hydraulic tests on soil, sediment, and in some cases rock samples. Capabilities include measurements of compaction (standard and modified Proctor), consolidation, Atterberg limits, point load strength, grain-size distribution (sieve and hydrometer), particle specific gravity, bulk density (dry and moist), moisture content, and unsaturated moisture diffusivity. 
X-ray Diffraction (XRD)
Diffractometer in the XRD Lab
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.