The group uses state-of-the-art equipment in a wide range of geochemical and environmental applications. New investment in facilities enable staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students to investigate exciting new areas of research in collaboration with many international and UK institutions.
We are in the process of purchasing additional analytical equipment, including a dual inlet isotope ratio mass spectrometer, so the list below will be greatly expanded in the very near future.
STABLE ISOTOPE LABORATORY
Built with flexibility in mind, the lab is equipped with a Thermo Delta V Advantage isotope ratio mass spectrometer which is interfaced with a GasBench II universal on-line gas preparation and introduction system, a PreCon Trace Gas Pre-Concentrator and a Flash 2000 Elemental Analyser. Using various configurations, we can perform continuous-flow analyses of C, H, O, and N isotopes in a variety of natural materials, including speleothems (and other carbonates), water, air, soils and peat. A recent addition to the lab is the Los Gatos Research Isotopic Water Analyzer (Liquid+Vapor), the world’s most advanced instrument for measurements of both isotopic liquid water (including wines) and water vapor. The lab is also equipped with a computer-controlled micromill used for high-resolution sampling of carbonates.
The Perkin Elemer Optima 8000 Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Mass Spectrometer delivers excellent analytical performance and is used for high-precision measurements of major and minor elemental concentrations in solution. The ICP-OES is our main workhorse in studies of both modern and past environments.
HIGH PERFORMANCE COMPUTING (HPC)
Our research group and students in the Geography Department and have exclusive access to the ‘climate’ node on the Faculty of Engineering and Environment’s HPC cluster ‘Oswald’. ‘Oswald’ is Northumbria’s dedicated HPC server, supplied by BIOS-IT, and comprised of three main subject nodes: ‘solar’, ‘physics’ and ‘climate’. As a shared resource, ‘Oswald’ provides access to a cluster containing 448 cores suitable for OpenMPI/MPI-based parallel computing to meet the present and future demands of ‘Big Data’ analysis in the domains of Engineering and Environment.
SMALL UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS (sUAS)
We use both fixed-wing and multicopter small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). sUAS equipment has recently been used for research purposes in the UK, the European Alps and Antarctica by staff and postgraduate research students. Optical and thermal cameras have been used on sUAS for a wide range of environmental investigations including coastal retreat, geomorporphological change in rock walls and slopes near valley glaciers and icecaps, as well as thermal energy emitted from forests to snow in Switzerland.
PALAEOENVIRONMENTAL RECONSTRUCTION LABORATORIES
The CAPE palaeoenvironmental reconstruction laboratories have the capability for a wide suite of analyses of peats, sediments, and soils, including diatoms, pollen, charcoal, dinoflagellates, fungi, particle size and geochemical properties. We have a dedicated HF laboratory for processing micropalynological specimens and trained technical staff for treating samples with HF.
These laboratories are complemented by a microscopy suite containing an array of DM2000 Leica compound microscopes fitted with real-time digital cameras and phase contrast, an Olympus BX40 compound microscope with fluorescence capability, and stereomicroscopes with transmitted and reflected light. It also houses pollen reference specimens from Northwest Europe and the Neotropics.
SCANNING ELECTRON MICROSCOPE
The group has access to a Quanta 200 SEM in the Department of Physics which provides characterisation of samples in their natural states, without the need for coatings or other preparation, giving a picture of their true structure and composition.
TERRESTRIAL LASER SCANNING
CAPE staff regularly use terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to capture high-resolution, three-dimensional topographic data in a range of environments. TLS technology, otherwise referred to as terrestrial LiDAR (light detection and ranging), uses measurement of the time of flight of a laser signal from its source to its return to the sensor to calculate the 3D position of a feature of interest. Repeat TLS surveys are commonly used to develop repeat, highly detailed 3D models of a landscape or feature of interest, which, when differenced, reveals patterns of spatial and temporal landscape evolution and aids geomorphological analysis. To date, CAPE staff have deployed TLS technology to characterise rock slope evolution in the European Alps, the retreat of permafrost coasts in the Svalbard archipelago, the growth and decay of periglacial landforms in Lapland, and the evolution of blue-ice moraine complexes in West Antarctica.