Skip Navigation
USGS - science for a changing world

Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Skip Navigation

Analytical Laboratories

Sediment Lab | X-ray Lab | Sediment Geochemistry


Sediment Lab:

This lab is equipped to determine the basic attributes of marine sediments. Grain size analysis equipment includes a rapid sediment analyzer (Fig. 1), sieves, and sieve shakers to determine distributions within the coarse fraction, and a Coulter Counter (Fig. 2), a constant temperature bath, and settling tubes to determine distributions within the fine fraction. Available computer software allows users to acquire, process, display, and archive the textural data. Camera-ready petrographic and binocular microscopes are available to facilitate compositional analysis.

Grain-size analysis procedures-A fully illustrated primer/tutorial on the methods used at the Woods Hole Field Center.
Grain-Size analysis software- Program used to analyze and characterize grain-size distributions.

Sediment Grain-Size Data:

Image of a rapid sediment analyzer
Figure 1. Click on figure for larger image. A rapid sediment analyzer that uses a pressure transducer to monitor the settling of sediment with time.
Image of Coulter Counter Multisizer 11e

Figure 2. Click on figure for larger image. A
Coulter Counter Multisizer IIe multi-channel
particle-size analyzer and its associated computer hardware.


X-ray Diffraction Lab:

Although optical microscopy can be used to readily identify sand and course silt-sized crystalline material, X-ray powder diffraction is the most common technique used to study the characteristics of crystalline structure and to determine the mineralogy of finer grained sediments, especially clays (Fig. 3). As a method, X-ray diffractometry is attractive because of its speed and ease of performance, and because it requires only small amounts of material, is nondestructive, and can be used to perform semi-quantitative analyses of poly-mineralic mixtures.

X-ray Powder Diffraction Procedures-A compilation of the methods used to analyze and identify clay minerals at the Woods Hole Field Center.

Image of X-ray diffractometer

Figure 3. Click on figure for larger image. An X-ray diffractometer and its associated computer hardware.


Sediment Geochemistry Lab:

The sediment geochemistry laboratory is a research support service of the Woods Hole Field Center. This laboratory is equipped to analyze carbon, count gamma emissions, process sediment cores, and digest biogenic silica in marine sediments.

Sediment Geochemistry Procedures - A compilation of the various methods used to analyze the sediments in this laboratory.

Coulometer with acidification unit

Figure 4. Click on figure for larger image. Coulometer with Acidification Unit


Clean Room:

The new Clean Lab Facility at the USGS Woods Hole Science Center was completed during March 2006. We renovated 500 square feet of space into three cascading clean areas: a Class 100,000 lab, Class 10,000 lab, and an isolated balance room. These rooms were meticulously constructed, avoiding all metal materials. Instead, construction materials such as polypropylene, epoxy, and wood were used. In this corrosion-free environment, the WHSC has the ability to prepare water, sediment, and tissue samples for low-concentration, environmentally sensitive, and chemical analyses.

Images of Sample and glassware storage.

Figure 1. Sample and glassware storage, along with a Milli-Q deionized water purification system and a five-foot laminar-flow exhausting fume hood.

Images of 5' laminar flow clean bench and sample prep space.

Figure 2. Opposite Figure 1 in the smaller, Class 10,000 clean room space, the room also contains a five-foot laminar-flow clean bench and sample prep space with epoxy counters and six IT ports for digital data transfer.

Image of drawers, IT ports, and epoxy counter space.

Figure 3. Next to the hood in the class 10,000 clean space, there are drawers, IT ports, and epoxy counter space. The rooms feature all-plastic construction, seamless floors, and plastic accessories.

This low-particulate, positive pressure laboratory space features contain a balance room, a microwave acid digestion system, acid baths, Teflon labware, and Milli-Q deionizing water purification. Three laminar-flow clean benches and three exhausting fume hoods have been installed and are ready for distilling acids, performing hot plate acid digestions, and setting up water filtration systems for low-level environmental analysis of seawater or fresh water. This area has restricted access for lab personnel in order to keep the space as clean as possible. Employees in this clean facility enter the lab through an antechamber and don Tyvek personal protective equipment, such as shoe covers and lab coats, in order to keep the particulate matter in the rooms to a minimum. The rooms have an intricate HVAC system using high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filters and pressure differentials to reduce airborne contaminants and to create directional air flow out of the room.

Image of 6' exhausting fume hood with variable speed drives and a workbench with epoxy counters.

Figure 4. The large, Class 100,000 clean room space is adjacent to the smaller, Class 10,000 space. Pictured here is the exhausting fume hood with variable speed drives, and a workbench with epoxy counters. The workbench also has a pass-through window to the non-clean lab portion of the facility for transferring samples into the clean space.

Image of separate balance room.

Figure 5. Adjacent to the large, Class 100,000 clean room space, is a separate room pictured here. The room has all plastic and wood construction as well as an epoxy balance table, a dedicated balance, and separate controls to adjust air flow and pressure to minimize air interferences with microbalance measurements.

Image of 5' laminar flow clean benches with an observation window to the hallway.

Figure 6. The large clean space contains two five-foot laminar flow clean benches with an observation window to the hallway. The lighting was selected because the unique design seals the metal fluorescent bulbs in a plastic casing.

Image of connection between the large and small clean room spaces.

Figure 7. The connection between the large and small clean room spaces is shown here, along with the pass-through window mentioned in the caption for Figure 4.

Image of vestibule from the hallway.

Figure 8. The vestibule from the hallway is secured by key-card access. Once the outer door closes, technicians will change into Tyvek lab coats, plastic clogs, and Tyvek booties prior to swiping their cards to enter the large, Class 100,000 space through a second door from the vestibule.

Image of balance room containing a dedicated balance, an epoxy balance table, maple cabinetry.

Figure 9. The balance room (also pictured in Figure 5) contains a dedicated balance, an epoxy balance table, maple cabinetry, and a pass-through window to move samples from the balance room to the existing laboratory store room.

This low-particulate, positive pressure laboratory space features contain a balance room, a microwave acid digestion system, acid baths, Teflon labware, and Milli-Q deionizing water purification. Three laminar-flow clean benches and three exhausting fume hoods have been installed and are ready for distilling acids, performing hot plate acid digestions, and setting up water filtration systems for low-level environmental analysis of seawater or fresh water. This area has restricted access for lab personnel in order to keep the space as clean as possible. Employees in this clean facility enter the lab through an antechamber and don Tyvek personal protective equipment, such as shoe covers and lab coats, in order to keep the particulate matter in the rooms to a minimum. The rooms have an intricate HVAC system using high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filters and pressure differentials to reduce airborne contaminants and to create directional air flow out of the room.

To request more information on the lab's capabilities, please contact:

John Bratton, jbratton@usgs.gov, 508-457-2254
Michael Bothner, mbothner@usgs.gov, 508-457-240

Skip Navigation

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USAGov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey

URL: woodshole.er.usgs.gov/operations/sedimentlab/index.html
Page Contact Information: WHSC Webmaster
This page last modified on Monday, 24-Nov-2014 13:05:01 EST