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Geochemistry Teaching Laboratory

COVID-19 ACCESS PROCEDURES: In accordance with UT phased reopening guidelines, access to this laboratory will be scheduled ahead of time for trained users, including faculty, staff, and students. There is no possibility for “drop in” use of the instrumentation or space. All access will be logged. Anyone coming to the lab space will need to wear an appropriate face cover (or you will be provided with one) and have (and wear) their own safety glasses or goggles. Everyone will practice social distancing, frequently wash their hands, and wear appropriate PPE. Any instrumentation and work area used will be disinfected before and after use following specific protocols, as outlined in the Health Safety Plan (HSP). The number of people in the lab at any one time will be limited to four people. Details for COVID-19 procedures in the HSP will be given to users prior to entering the lab. Training for some protocols may be done via Zoom. Experiments or research needs that last longer than five days will need to be approved, according to the Office of Research and Engagement protocol. These policies will be in place until further notice. For questions, contact Dr. Annette Engel (; 865-974-0402).
Geochemistry Teaching Laboratory in Strong Hall

Design and construction of the Geochemistry Teaching Laboratory in Strong Hall finished in the Summer of 2018. This classroom is located in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Funding from Student Technology Fees, provided by the College of Arts and Sciences, was used to purchase instrumentation and supplies for the laboratory. Currently, the classroom has equipment to train users in the analysis of water samples for dissolved ion and trace metal analyses, in the analysis of atmospheric gases, and in the digestion of solid materials (i.e., soil, rock, bone, shell) for the analysis of trace metals in solution. Additional capabilities are also possible.

If interested in the instrumentation or the classroom, then please fill out this form for more information. Occasionally, experiential University Registered Courses are offered to train undergraduate and graduate students in the use of the classroom instrumentation and in theoretical and applied geochemical methods. Some classes have been taught by Annette Engel. Outside of traditional courses, instruments in the classroom and the space are available for students and/or faculty and staff who would like to conduct independent research and have received the appropriate training. At least two of the following Vol Vision Key Focus Areas for attaining instructional/educational goals should be meet: Undergraduate Education; Graduate Education; Research; Professional Development of Faculty/Staff; Development of New Department Infrastructure and Resources.

All users are required to have recently completed Laboratory Safety Training, provided by Environmental Health and Safety, and site-specific training. Students also receive site-specific training as part of a University Registered Course. Depending on the type of research to be conducted, training could take several days, to weeks, to over a month, and proficiency in any of the analytical methods and equipment use, as well as proper data analysis, could take several months.

There is no technical staff support for this teaching laboratory and no turn-key analyses are available. If analytical services are needed, then people should contact the University of Tennessee’s Water Quality Core Facility (WQCF).

Instrumentation in the Geochemistry Teaching Classroom

Thermo Scientific iCAP7400 DUO Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES), with integrated Teledyne CETAC ASX-560 autosampler and Qtegra software, and mobile computer station Thermo Scientific iCAP7400 DUO

Applications: trace metal analysis from liquids; satisfies US EPA SW-846 Method 6010D, as well as other methods

Sample types: filtered water samples (groundwater, surface water; ocean water); digested soil, rock, sludge, ash powders
Thermo Scientific Dionex Integrion High Pressure Ion Chromatography (HPIC) System, with eluent generation and degassing, conductivity detector, Chromeleon software, integrated autosampler, and wireless control.

Applications: wide-range of inorganic and organic ion analyses; satisfies US EPA method 300.0.1

Sample types: filtered water samples
SRI Instruments 8610C Gas Chromatography Systems with flame ionization detector (FID), electron capture detector (ECD), methanizer accessory, and PeakSimple software with touchscreen computer control, as well as another SRI Instruments 8610C Gas Chromatography System with FID, flame photometric detector (FPD), FID/FPD with methanizer, and a thermal conductivity detector (TCD). Both systems run using high purity carrier grade H2 gas, produced by a Parker Hanninfin H2PEM-100 Hydrogen Generator.

Applications: greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O), hydrocarbons, CO, and electronegative (chlorinated, fluorinated, and brominated) compounds

Sample types: gases; volatile compounds in headspace

One of the GCs was purchased with funds provided through the Institute for a Secure & Sustainable Environment (ISSE).
Thermo Scientific NanoDrop One/One UV-Vis Spectrophotometer, for sample analysis in a droplet or cuvette, with touchscreen and wifi control Thermo Scientific NanoDrop One

Applications: colorimetric analyses and assays, optical density, and nucleic acids, proteins, and contaminants analyses

Sample types: solutions
Also available are smaller instruments, including a Mettler Toledo Analytical Balance, Fisher Scientific IsoTemp drying (and heating) oven (forced air convection), Thermo Scientific Thermolyne benchtop muffle furnace, Thermo Scientific Barnstead E-PURE system (series 1090) to convert tap water into Type 1 ultrapure (18.2 megohm) water, hot/stir plates, pH/temperature benchtop meters, air quality meters (for VOCs, CO, CO2), microburets, benchtop centrifuge, flammable refrigerator, incubator, pipettes, glassware, plasticware, and Teflon-ware, porcelain crucibles, disposable supplies, PPE, and field sampling supplies Applications: various liquid, solid, gas analyses, including physiochemical characterization, solids digestion, centrifugation, and sample collection.
Some general use chemicals are also available in the laboratory for courses, such as pH buffers, calibration standards, nitric acid, etc. However, non-course users and researchers should supply their own chemicals, including standards, for their work.  

Examples of Projects Using Instrumentation in the Geochemistry Classroom

  • Effects of outdoor rock climbing on the geochemical composition of cliff soils
  • Influence of urban runoff contamination on water quality of a public spring in Knoxville
  • Trace metal analysis of acidic volcanic hydrothermal systems
  • Texture and clay mineralogy of Ag Research and Education Center soils
  • ICP-OES analysis of trace metal distribution across the Cordillera Blanca Shear Zone
  • Historical comparison of groundwater from Area 2 in the Y-12 National Security Complex
  • Trace element incorporation in Echinometra lucunter
  • Major ion chemistry changes during extracellular enzyme degradation experiments

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