Soil Characterization and Quaternary Pedology Laboratory Instrumentation


The Soil Characterization and Quaternary Pedology Laboratory is equipped with cutting edge instrumentation to provide a wide range of analytical capabilities for soil and sediment. Instrumentation for physical analyses includes a Malvern Mastersizer 3000 for laser particle size analysis, a Meter Environment HYPROP 2 to measure soil moisture release curves, and additional instrumentation for measuring other physical properties including soil bulk density and Atterberg Limits. Instrumentation for chemical analyses includes a Dionex ICS-1500 Ion Chromatography System for measuring anions and cations, an Agilent 5800 Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES) for a variety of geochemical analyses, and a Niton XL3t 900 portable XRF unit with GOLDD+ technology for field- and lab-based geochemical measurements. The lab is also equipped with a rock crushing and milling facility and additional instrumentation for performing mineral separations and measuring pH, electrical conductivity, carbonate content, organic matter content, and more.  Click below for more information.


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Malvern Mastersizer 3000
Malvern Mastersizer 3000The Mastersizer 3000 is Malvern’s newest instrument for measuring particle size distributions in granular materials. It produces rapid results by measuring both the angle and intensity of light scatted as a laser beam passes through a dispersed sample. The lab is equipped with two different dispersion units, allowing the measurement of both wet and dry samples. It can analyze samples from 3.5 mm to 0.01 μm. We use ASTM C1070-2020 for routine laser particle size analyses.


METER HYPROP 2 – Soil Moisture Release Curve

The METER HYPROP 2 can measure soil water potential by creating moisture release curves using the Wind/Schindler evaporation method. The HYPROP 2 uses two tensiometers at different levels in a soil or sediment sample to measure water potentials up to ~800 hPa. The lab is equipped with three HYPROP 2 stations for simultaneous measurement. The lab also contains a WP4C dew point potentiometer for measurements at high matric suction in dry soils, increasing the range of our moisture release curve measurements.

Agilent 5800 ICP-OES – Geochemical Analysis

Our Agilent 5800 ICP-OES system provides routine geochemical analysis of soils and soil extracts, sediments, and other aqueous solutions. EPA method 200-7 is used to fully digest soil or sediment samples for major- and trace-element analyses.  The system is equipped with argon humidifier kit for samples with high total dissolved solids.

Dionex ICS 1500 Ion Chromatography System – Anion & Cation Suites

The Dionex ICS 1500 measures a series of anions and/or cations within a soil extract or other aqueous sample via suppressed conductivity detection. Standard solutions are used for calibration to produce a chromatogram, then aqueous sample extracts are measured on the instrument.

Niton XL3t 900 pXRF – Geochemical Analysis

The Niton portable XRF measures the elemental composition of a soil or sediment sample via x-ray fluorescence. The unit can be operational in a field or laboratory setting. Lab samples are powdered and packed into plastic cups prior to analysis and are measured against known standards. The GOLDD+ technology and optional helium atmosphere provide additional accuracy and sensitivity for lighter elements.


Lab phone: 775-673-7430
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Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512


Earth & Ecosystem Sciences