Geological Survey Ireland and Trinity College Dublin have launched a new national facility providing state-of-the-art chemical analyses for geoscientists in Ireland.

The Earth Surface Research Laboratory (ESRL), which is based at the university, houses advanced facilities for the preparation and analysis of geological and environmental samples.

This includes two x-ray fluorescence spectrometers, which can determine elemental amounts down to trace concentrations. It will also have instruments for specifically measuring the levels of mercury in environmental samples, and an elemental analyser for quantifying organic and inorganic carbon.

These devices are in clean rooms at the advanced facility to prevent contamination.

“The Earth Surface Research Laboratory is a facility for the whole geoscience community on the island of Ireland, producing high-quality data, using the most advanced equipment currently available,” Dr Michael Stock, director of the new lab, said.

“Our dual aims are to support national efforts to understand Ireland’s natural environment and to continue building Ireland’s international reputation as a centre for world-class geoscience research.”

Researchers will use these tools to provide additional information beyond the distribution and physical history of geological formations. By delving into the chemical composition of Ireland’s rocks, geologists can achieve a more thorough understanding of the country’s physical heritage and find ways to sustainably harness natural resources.

The laboratory will initially support the Tellus geochemical survey – Geological Survey Ireland’s national programme mapping the elemental concentrations in soils, stream sediments and stream waters all across the island.

The facility will also be open to academic researchers and other environmental groups based anywhere in Ireland in a non-commercial capacity.

“This very exciting collaboration will be of great value to the geoscience community on the island of Ireland,” said Prof David Chew, head of geology at Trinity College Dublin.

“Geological Survey Ireland’s Tellus programme and geoscience researchers will all benefit from the high-quality geochemical data produced by this state-of-the-art facility.”

Sam Cox

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