Sample Extraction

Depending on the characteristics and mass of the sample we use a variety of methods to extract the organic fraction including ultrasonic extraction in a water bath, a CEM Mars6 microwave-assisted extraction/digestion system, and multiple soxhlet apparatuses. We use a Thermo Rocket evaporation system to remove solvents and concentrate samples.

Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer

The abcLab is equipped with a Thermo Delta V Plus irMS for the analysis of C, H, N, O, and S isotopes. A Thermo Conflo IV serves as the interface to peripheral devices.

GC-MS (Single Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer)

A Thermo Trace Ultra gas chromatograph and ISQ Mass Selective Device are used to detect and identify lipid biomarkers in organic extracts. A Thermo Isolink interface to the Delta V permits the measurement of compound-specific isotopes of C, H, and N in lipid biomarkers.

GC-MS/MS (Triple Quadruple Mass Spectrometer)

The Varian 350 TSQ triple quadrupole mass spectrometer permits precise identification of biomarkers using Multiple Reaction Monitoring. The TSQ is connected to a Varian 450 gas chromatograph.

Elemental analyzer

The Costech 4010 Elemental Analyzer is connected to the Delta V for the analysis of C and N elemental abundances and stable isotope values.

Pyrolysis GC-MS

A CDS Analytical Pyroprobe 5200 provides the ability to pyrolize organic matter that is not amenable to solvent extraction for analysis by GC-MS.

Light Microscopy

Light microscopy facilities include a Leica M145 for stereoscopic imaging of larger samples, and a Leica DM6000B with a digital XYZ stage enabling automated gigapixel mosaic and Z-stack acquisition.


Electron microscopy facilities include a Hitachi SU3500 VP-SEM with a Oxford Instruments X-MaxN 150 mm2 silicon drift energy dispersive spectroscopy system enabling automated elemental mapping with sub-mm spatial resolution over large (cm2) areas.

Sample Preparation & Storage

The abcLab shares a clean sample storage and preparation facility featuring a Bruker x-ray diffraction (XRD) system, rock saws and polishing equipment plumbed with deionized water. There is also equipment for sample photography and scanning.

Shaw Backpack Drill

The Shaw Backpack Drill is a gasoline-powered coring drill. The abcLab uses the 41mm ID version and owns 20m of core tubing. The drill bit is lubricated by a constant supply of low-pressure water from a hand-pumped canister. Two canisters fit into the backpack. A much larger 25-gallon plastic tank can be carried in the back of a truck or car to refill the canisters in the field. A tripod equipped with block and tackle facilitates the extraction of the heavy drill string from the borehole. While the drill is hypothetically "backpack" portable, with water, steel tubes, fuel, and tools it requires a small team to deploy.