Geology Laboratories


Introduction.- In accordance with the CSIC Strategic Plan, the Geology Laboratories sited mainly in the south pavilion of the National Museum of Natural Sciences includes analytical services of internal and external uses to research groups related to: (1) solid samples as shells, bones, soils, sediments, rocks, minerals, meteorites, etc. (2) liquid samples (water), (3) air samples and gas mixtures as CO2, CH4, NxOx, Radon, etc. These Laboratories help to many research areas such as mineralogy, petrology, gemmology, inorganic chemistry, volcanology, stratigraphy, tectonics, geodynamics, geomorphology, palaeontology, malacology, metallurgy, archaeology, ceramics, raw materials, materials, radiation dosimetry, bio-deterioration, geodiversity, environmental toxicology or pharmaceuticals. The analytical facilities perform qualitative and quantitative analysis of solids by: X-ray diffraction, polarization microscopy and counter-laser granulometry, together with equipment from neighbouring laboratories for non-destructive techniques such as ESEM-EDS-CL, DTA-TG, Micro -Raman, Micro-DRX, CT-Scan, Confocal, Interferometry 3D Microscopy, etc. Samples generally start their way into the sample preparation laboratories to be cut, ground, sieved, separated, centrifuged, consolidated, polished, or pressed into tablets, obviously in accordance with the planned subsequent analyses. The laboratories have portable field equipment for subaerial spaces (4K cameras, drones, geophysical equipment, etc.) and for underground spaces, to analyse gases (CO2, CH4, NxOx, Radon and others) and monitor physical parameters such as temperature, relative humidity, air speed, vibrations, etc. The Geochemistry and Environmental Monitoring laboratory has a Picarro G2101i equipment that analyses the isotopic signal of Carbon in CO2 and CH4 in the air with very high precision.

THE GEOCHEMICAL AND GEOENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING LAB has a specific MNCN webpage; this lab provides the following external services:

Analysis of air samples (concentration of CO2, CH4 y H2Ov and δ13C-CO2, δ13C-CH4).

Analysis of water samples (major and trace elements) and determination of pH, C.E., TDS, ORV, resistivity, salinity, dissolved oxygen.

Environmental and geo-chemical monitoring of earth ecosystems in different climate contexts.

Applying isotopic chemistry and environmental monitoring of ecosystems to quantify flux exchanges of CO2, CH4, and N2O between earth ecosystems and the atmosphere.

Geophysical characterization of the subsoil.

Structural monitoring: Modal analysis, vibration analysis (UNI9916, DIN4150) and surveillance.

Seismic hazard and risk assessments. Seismic site response and microzonation.


SOLID SAMPLE ANALYSIS LABORATORY TEAMS BY XRD AND XRF (Operational laboratory, but without a technician, responsible: Director of the Department)

RX Diffractometer. - It is a Philips-PW 1830 X-ray Diffractometer spectrometer that analyzes samples by the powder method for the identification and semi-quantitative determination of predominant mineral phases. The equipment works with copper cathode and wavelength 1.74 with habitual sweeps between 3º- 65º of angle 2θ with output on Philips PW 1710 digital register and data collection with PC computers. The control and treatment of the diffractograms is carried out with XPowder software (version 2008) for both the qualitative and quantitative analysis of the samples.

XRF spectrometer. Chemical analyses are performed with a Phillips model PW-2424 spectrometer with an ultra-fine window X-ray tube and 2.4 kW rhodium (Rh) anode. The equipment has an unfolded flow and scintillation detector inside the spectrometric chamber. It has three collimators of 150, 300 and 700 μm for high resolution, quantitative analysis and analysis of light elements respectively. The reflection of the fluorescence X-rays takes place in five analyser crystals of LiF 220, LiF 200, Ge, PE and Px1 that allow analysing from oxygen to uranium. Samples are introduced into the spectrometer once pulverized, compacted and pressed for qualitative and semi-quantitative analysis with a series of universal standards to calibrate any element. It has an IQ + software to correct the Inter-elemental effects through mathematical treatments. The tablets are assembled with 8 g of sample with 3.5 ml of 20% elvacite solution in acetone and pressed at 200 KNcm-2. To make the beads, 0.30 g of sample of 5.5 g of Li2B4O7 is melted for quantitative analysis. Certain elements are obtained by quantitative analysis of a sample prepared in pearl form, the rest in pill form. Loss on ignition is obtained by annealing the sample in an alumina container up to 1000ºC and maintaining this temperature for 1 hour.


The Geological department provides an external service for the prior identification of minerals, rocks, meteorites and gems by traditional, or organoleptic, methods of magnifying glass, refractometer, specific gravity, reflectivity (gem-tester), scratch, acid attack, etc., which many times avoids waiting times and saves higher costs for complex analytical techniques that are also operational within other MNCN laboratories.

SAMPLE PREPARATION LABORATORY (Operational laboratory, but without technician, responsible: Director of the Department)

In this workshop samples are cut, stuffed, impregnated, polished and ground, e.g. compact rocks, decomposed soils and sand specimens. It can also process any other type of non-geological solids such as ceramic, concrete, metal, wood, fossil, slag or plastic. The preparation of the samples makes it possible to offer polished plane-parallel sections to be studied in the Museum's own microscopes, such as the cold cathodoluminescence, optical petrographic, electronic, WDS and hot CL, Raman and Confocal-laser. The machines used are cutters, rectifiers, polishers, heating plates, vacuum pumps for resins or column drills with water heads. The sectioned, polished, ground or consolidated samples are thus prepared to be analysed in operational facilities placed in the MNCN institution and other external centres.

PHOTOGRAMETRY EQUIPMENT AND PRECISION TOPOGRAPHIC SURVEYS (Operational Laboratory only for internal use of the Department of Geology, Supervisor Gerardo Benito)

The Dr. Benito's researching group has a Phantom 4 RTK drone for photogrammetric survey and Photoscan software (agisoft metashape) with an educational license from the UCM for internal use. For field target positioning, they have a Trimble 4700 differential GPS that is about 20 years old. They are looking for a mobile GPS antenna that does not depend on the installation of a base.

SEDIMENT PREPARATION LABORATORY (Operational Laboratory only for internal use of the Department of Geology, Supervisor Fernando Garrido)

In these dependencies, there are sieve towers, sedimentation scales, mills, extractor hoods, etc .. Separation of sediments within hard rocks, for example, from clays in limestone by acid attacks of HCl in the extractor hood.

PETROGRAPHIC OPTICAL MICROSCOPY LABORATORY (Operational Laboratory only for internal use of the Department of Geology, Supervisors Angeles Bustillo, Javier Garcia Guinea, Sergio Sanchez)






Javier García Guinea,

Sergio Sanchez del Moral,

Mariano Garcia,

Gerardo de Benito,

Fernando Garrido


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