The Lab

Ion Chromatograph

Metrohm Advanced Compact Ion Chromatograph

The general purpose ion chromatograph (IC) is equipped with an autosampler allowing automated analysis of up to 148 samples and controls. The IC includes a column heating unit and a CO2 suppressor, which allows for very low detection limits for both anions and cations. Reproducible results are obtainable from direct sample analysis with concentrations from 5 μg/L (5 ppb) for anions (including chloride, nitrite, bromide, nitrate, phosphate and sulfate) and cations (including sodium, ammonium, potassium, calcium and magnesium).

Research conducted by SWEL researchers using ion chromatography includes investigation of hydrologic flowpath activation and dynamics of terrestrial-aquatic connectivity by using chemical “fingerprints” to conduct source water partitioning. The SWEL IC is also used to determine biogeochemical cycling of major and trace elements through soil-water-vegetative systems.

The IC is used for routine and specialized analysis of river water, soil water, rainwater and snow water. Analysis of other matrices is also possible.

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Automated Quick Furnace Combustion Ion Chromatography

AQF/IC, Mitsubishi/Dionex

The AQF-100 is developed for simultaneous analysis of halogens as well as sulfur in solid and liquid samples. The elements are analysed individually and speciated as F, Cl, Br, I and S. Reproducible results are obtainable from direct sample analysis with concentrations below ppb level.

SWEL researchers use the AQF/IC to analyse the total amount of halogens (chlorine, iodine and bromine) in solid samples such as soil, plants and sediments as well as in aqueous samples such as rain, surface water and ground water. Analysis of other matrices is also possible.

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Total Organic Carbon Analyzer

Shimadzu Model TOC-VCPH with Total Nitrogen Module and AVI autosampler

The TOC analyzer is a high-precision instrument for the analysis of total carbon, organic carbon, and inorganic carbon in liquid samples. It is set up as a high-throughput instrument, and includes an external sparge kit and a 68-vial autosampler. It is coupled with a Total Nitrogen Module, which allows for determination of total nitrogen (TN) in liquid samples at the same time that carbon analysis is performed. Very low detection limits are obtained for both carbon and nitrogen analysis. Reproducible results are obtainable for carbon concentrations from 4 μg/L (4 ppb), while for TN, the detection limit is 5 μg/L (5 ppb, 0.005 mg/L).

Research conducted by SWEL researchers using the TOC/TN analyzer includes investigation of carbon and nitrogen fluxes at plot, hillslope and watershed scales. One example is evaluation of the bioavailability of dissolved carbon at the terrestrial-aquatic interface determining the ratio of dissolved organic carbon to dissolved organic nitrogen. Dissolved organic nitrogen is computed as the difference between TN and the sum of nitrate plus ammonium (nitrate and ammonium are determined on the IC).

The SWEL TOC/TN is used to evaluate carbon cycling in terrestrial and aquatic environments. It is used for routine and specialized analysis of river water, soil water, rainwater and snow water. Analysis of other matrices is also possible.

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Flow Injection Analysis

FIA+, Lachat

The QuickChem* Automated Ion Analyzer (LACHAT) is a high precision flexible analytical facility that provides precise and accurate results on water and dilute solution samples, including drinking water, waste water , brines, soil solutions, plant extracts and similar materials. Capabilities include: nitrite/nitrate, ammonia, orthophosphate, sulphate and chloride. The instrument is calibrated to determine ammonium for cation exchange capacity determinations in minerals, organic materials and soil.

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Total Carbon and Total Nitrogen Analysis


The CN 2000 high temperature furnace provides quick and reliable simultaneous determination of total C and N in solid samples of minerals, sediments, plants and soil. Sample size can range from less than 0.5 grams for organic materials up to 2 grams for sediments, soils and mineral samples.

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Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy


The VISTA CCD Simultaneous ICP-AES, also known as Optical Emission Spectrometer or ICP-OES allows the determination of up to 24 elements simultaneously in acidified aqueous solutions. Solutions may have water or dilute acid matrices. The VISTA instrument has a Vistachip that allows full wavelength coverage from 167-785 nm. Detection limits range generally in the range of 0.1ug/L for elements such as Ca, Li, and Mg to about 5-7 ug/L, for elements such as As and Se. Commondetection limits for most common elements in plants, sediments ans soil are in the order of ‹1 ug/L.

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TDL Spectrometer for Carbon-Dioxide Isotopologue Analysis

Campbell Scientific TGA 200

The TGA200 is a portable trace-gas analyzer to measure stable isotopologues of carbon dioxide (δ13C, δ18O) under ambient atmospheric concentrations. The operating principle of the TGA200 uses the fact that each isotopologue has a unique absorption line in the mid-infrared. A lead-salt tunable diode laser (TDL) operated at low temperature (90 K) and a low-pressure chamber allow separating lines and perform measurements at high frequency (10 Hz). The TGA200 is used in combination with our eddy-covariance systems to directly quantify land-atmosphere fluxes of carbon-dioxide isotopologues. The system is equipped with an automatic three-point-calibration.

SWAL researchers use the TGA200 in short- and medium term field experiments to partition fluxes in different ecosystems. Current research is related to the urban carbon cycle, and the TGA200 helps to differentiate between various sources of carbon-dioxide (gasoline, natural gas, respiration etc.) in urban environments at different scales.

More information at Campbell Scientific.

Gas Chromatograph with Cool Injection and Thermo Desorption System

GC/TDS, Agilent/Gerstel

The GC/TDS system has been developed for detection of low concentrations of volatiles. The Cooled Injection System (CIS) is the internationally most frequently used PTV-type universal inlet, with patented septumless sampling head. Thanks to temperature programmed sample injection the use of CIS makes GC analysis more versatile, reproducible and has lower detection limits than ever before.

The GERSTEL CIS provides two essential system-functions: Universal injection system for all injection techniques: Split, Splitless, Pressure Pulsed Split, Pressure Pulsed Splitless, on-column and solvent venting for large volume injection up to 1000ul. Second, a cryotrap enrichment system in combination with the GERSTEL Thermal Desorption System TDS.

SWEL researchers use the GC/TDS to detect halogenated volatiles such as chloroform and chloromethane in air samples collected in the field.

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Soil-Atmosphere Flux Chambers

These flux chambers have been developed by the Biometeorology Group at UBC and were originally developed for detection of CO2 with IR. An automated chamber system for measuring half- hourly soil respiration is for example installed at the Campbell River field site. SWEL researchers are presently working to refit the chambers for detection of halogenated volatiles to be used for budget estimates of such compounds in the field.