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The Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center (WHCMSC) Sediment Analysis Laboratory offers a wide range of analytical techniques and methods to help characterize sediments and mineralized samples from coastal, nearshore, and marine environments.

Current Capabilities:

  • Grain Size Analysis
    • Coarse fraction sieve, fine fraction Laser Diffraction
    • Coarse fraction sieve, fine fraction Multisizer
  • Carbonate Content
    • Bulk organics and carbonate content through Loss on Ignition
    • Carbonate content through HCl digestion
  • Water Content
  • Paleo Washing (wet sediment sieving, > 63 microns retained)
  • X-ray Powder Diffraction (qualitative or semi-quantitative analysis)
  • Suspended Sediment Concentration
  • Loss on Ignition
  • Bulk Density

Analytical Instrumentation:

Beckman Coulter Multisizer3

Originally designed to count and size blood cells, Electro-Resistance Multichannel Particle Size Analyzers (EMPSA) have found other applications because of the short time and small amount of material required for analysis. These devices, such as the Beckman Coulter Multisizer 3, have applications in geology, where they are used to measure the grain size of sediments by measuring differences in electrical resistivity produced by sediment particles. Analyses performed on the Multisizer produce the fine-fraction (silt plus clay) distribution. The fine fraction is, in turn, combined with the coarse fraction data to generate a complete grain size distribution.

Photograph of Beckman Coulter Multisizer 3
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Sediment Analysis Laboratory's Beckman Coulter Multisizer 3 (USGS laboratory equipment number WH-SED-BeckmanCoulter-Multisizer1).

Horiba LA-960 Laser Diffraction Unit and Slurry Sampler

There are several techniques available in the lab for measuring grain size distribution, and our newest analytical capability uses the Horiba LA-960 and attached slurry sampler for laser diffraction particle size analysis. Laser diffraction particle size analysis has become the industry standard for geoscience laboratories and the methods used in the Sed Lab are now comparable to those used by the other Coastal and Marine Geology Program Centers and our collaborators.

Photograph of Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center's Sed Lab equipment
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Sediment Analysis Laboratory's Horiba LA-960 laser diffraction unit with slurry sampler (USGS laboratory equipment number WH-SED-Horiba-LA9601).

Rigaku MiniFlex 600 Benchtop X-ray Diffraction Unit

X-ray powder diffraction is the most common technique used to study the characteristics of crystalline structure and to determine the mineralogy of finer grained sediments, especially clays. X-ray diffractometry using the Rigaku Miniflex 600 is advantageous because of its speed and ease of performance, and because it requires only small amounts of material, is nondestructive, and can be used to perform semi-quantitative analyses of poly-mineralic mixtures.

Photograph of Rigaku Miniflex 600
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Sediment Analysis Laboratory's Rigaku Miniflex 600 (USGS laboratory equipment number WH-SED-Rigaku-Miniflex1).