Inorganic geochemistry

Collection of water samples for chemical analysis

BGS has a modern, well equipped inorganic geochemistry laboratory to support its research objectives and commercial activities.

Sample matrices

Our facility is equipped to carry out analysis on a wide range of geoenvironmental sample matrices, including rock, sediment, soil and groundwater samples. Applications range from investigations of drinking water quality, pore fluid characterisation, rock geochemistry and regional geochemical mapping, to soil and groundwater pollution and assessments of contaminated land. Our experience includes handling of unusual samples, complex matrices and small volumes.

Extraction capability

Soil Kd testing

Our specialist solid phase extraction facilities include hydrofluoric acid and mixed acid digestion, sodium peroxide and lithium metaborate fusion, and selective leach extractions.

Capability includes measurement of cation exchange capacity in soils and sediments. Partition coefficient (Kd) testing of solid materials is also available for a range of determinands, e.g. cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, mercury, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

We have comprehensive facilities for bioaccessibility testing for potentially harmful elements such as arsenic, cadmium and lead in soil matrices, using physiologically based extractions such as the BARGE method.

Analytical capability

Ion chromatograph

Our inorganic analytical capability incorporates:

  • modern inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) instrumentation for the analysis of a comprehensive suite of major and trace elements. This includes ultra-trace detection limits (ng/L) for a range of elements in natural waters by ICP-MS.
  • ion chromatography for analysis of anions
  • potentiometric titration for analysis of pH in waters and soils, and alkalinity in water
  • potentiometry for analysis of electrical conductivity
  • organic carbon analyser for non-purgeable organic carbon (NPOC)
  • loss on ignition
ICP-MS with laser ablation

Our ICP-MS facilities also include:

  • laser ablation capability for the spatial analysis of solids on a micrometer scale
  • isotope ratio measurement capability (e.g uranium isotopes)
  • element speciation capability using high pressure liquid chromatography ICP-MS (HPLC-ICP-MS), including investigation of arsenic and chromium species

Quality control

Our ICP-OES, ICP-MS and ion chromatography instruments are accredited to ISO 17025 for major- and trace-element analysis of aqueous samples. Determination of soil pH is also accredited to the Environment Agency's MCERTS Standard.

Advice and consultancy

Our experts can advise on the best methods of preparation and analysis of environmental samples. We offer advice based on wide experience of the collection and analysis of varying geoenvironmental matrices. We also participate in national and international programmes for the certification of reference materials.

Our staff are available to provide training in field and laboratory analytical techniques, both in the UK laboratory and through visits by specialist staff overseas and to other off-site locations. The laboratories also offer a consultancy and advisory service on setting up and operating laboratories in many areas of environmental and geological analysis. Professional training has been given to technical analysts and postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers, including hosting PhD studentships in collaboration with UK universities.


Please contact Michael Watts for further information.