Trace Chemistry Laboratory

Contact: Joe McConnell

Analyzing ice cores in the lab.
Analyzing ice cores in the lab.

The mission of the Trace Chemistry laboratory is to provide high quality trace and ultra-trace chemical and physical analyses of various environmental sample media for the faculty and staff of the DRI and its research programs. Download fact sheet for more information. 

The Trace Chemistry Laboratory (TCL) was established in 1967 specifically to provide support for monitoring and assessing the impacts of the cloud seeding activities occurring in the State of Nevada. At that time, new and innovative trace chemical techniques were just beginning to be applied to such investigations around the world.

Today, the TCL complex includes six laboratories including a 300 sq. ft. class 100 clean room, a 200 sq. ft. cold lab (-15C), a 400 sq. ft. wet chemistry lab and a 150 sq. ft. sample storage freezer (-20C). The combination of a Class 100 Clean Room (one of the larger facilities of its kind within the state of Nevada) located adjacent to the Cold Laboratory was designed to give DRI a competitive edge in the analysis of snow and ice cores.

Continuous, real time analysis of ice cores.
Continuous, real time analysis of ice cores.

The TCL is an EPA-certified trace metals lab and includes two state-of-the-art Thermo Finnigan Element2 high-resolution ICP-MS instruments, a Thermo Elemental IRIS dual-view ICP-OES, a custom ice-core melter, and a 1 mega-ohm building-wide water system with double polishing loops in the labs. The two HR-ICP-MS, ice-core melter (including DiElectric Profiling and continuous velocity measurements) and an Elga 18.2 mega ohm ultra pure water system are in the clean room, with the ICP-OES housed in a class-10000 clean space in an adjoining wet lab.

Additional instruments include gas and ion chromatographs, atomic-adsorption, fluorescence, and ultraviolet and visible spectrophotometers, Ocean Optics multichannel fiber optic spectrophotometer with Liquid Core Wave Guide flow cells, an Ocean Optics pH sensor, a sub-boiling Teflon acid still, a flow injection analysis system, an acid reflux bottle cleaning system, a laser-light scattering instrument for continuous particle counting, and high accuracy peristaltic and pulse-free piston pumps. Black carbon analyses are performed using an SP2, inter-cavity laser system.


  • Ice and seasonal snow chemical analyses
  • Trace element analysis
  • Drinking water trace element analysis