Environmental Analysis Facility

Lab Description

DRI’s Environmental Analysis Facility (EAF) in Reno, Nevada, was established in 1985 by its director, Dr. Judith C. Chow and has developed into a world class facility. The EAF characterizes air pollutants and identifies air emission sources. The facility specializes in complex analyses of environmental samples, with an emphasis on suspended particulate matter collected on samples from ambient air and source effluents. Most of the major source types–including power plants, motor vehicles, and refineries–are known, but it is important to identify specific sources (e.g., diesel vs. gasoline exhaust) to understand interrelationships of various pollutants and to identify additional sources to implement effective control strategies. Several methods established at EAF are now in widespread use throughout the world, including the IMPROVE and IMPROVE_A thermal/optical methods for organic carbon, elemental carbon, and thermal carbon fractions.

EAF is supported by eight professional research scientists, six laboratory technicians, an administrative assistant, and nine hourly staff who are usually university students. Contacts for the lab include:

Dr. Judith Chow
Director, Environmental Analysis Facility

Xiaoliang Wang
Deputy Director and Research Professor

Dr. John Watson
Research Professor

Steve Kohl
Associate Research Professor


In addition to laboratory analyses, EAF professionals assist sponsors in designing air quality sampling and analysis programs to meet specific needs and supply sampling equipment, training, and report/publication preparation services. EAF provides private, state, and government agencies the tools needed to identify, control, and reduce atmospheric contaminants. EAF also collaborates with universities and private sector consultants to complement their expertise in air quality management, permitting, and assessment.

This laboratory is a chemical laboratory equipped to quantify atmospheric contaminants in minute quantities, and is equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation providing a full range of analytical capabilities for identifying and quantifying trace amounts of inorganic substances and carbon fractions in gaseous, particulate, and liquid (wet deposition) air pollution samples collected in containers and on filters.

Mass, elements, ions, carbon fractions, and organic compounds are quantified to determine levels of potentially toxic components, and to apportion ambient concentrations to their sources.

EAF prepares and tests sampling substrates under low contamination conditions to minimize dynamic and field blank levels to obtain the best Lower Quantifiable Limits (LQLs) possible. Positive-pressure air, filtered by high-efficiency particle arresting (HEPA) filters in each laboratory area, minimizes contamination, which is further controlled by sample handling in laminar flow hoods. Temperature and relative humidity are controlled for filter equilibration and gravimetric analysis. Standard operating procedures (SOPs), quality control (QC) performance tests, and inter-laboratory comparisons have been established for analyses of mass, carbon fractions, elements, and ions. Data processing and data validation procedures and software integrate field records and implement blank subtraction and error propagation.


Judith Chow, Sc.D.
Lab Director


Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512


Atmospheric Sciences