Analytical Services

SRSL has an in-house and world-class analytical laboratory which is used for investigating levels of radioactivity in sediment, water and biological samples from the marine environment. Other analyses available include trace metal/element and organic compounds characterisation, (ICP-MS and ICP-OES to UKAS ISO 17025 standards, as below), particle size analysis (PSA), nutrient analysis and core-logging.

We deliver a wide range of nuclear services, ranging from water-quality analysis or heavy-metal contamination to the development of new methodologies for clients requiring unusually low detection limits.
SRSL also provide data-processing and analysis in-house, as well as high-quality technical and final reporting.

Core logging

Our Geotek Ltd multi-sensor core logger (MSCL) is the only commercially available tool for gathering physical property data describing sediment cores, in an automated, non-destructive and quality-controlled way. The range of parameters that can be measured includes: p-wave velocity, gamma density, magnetic susceptibility, electrical resistivity, colour imaging and gamma spectroscopy.


The Scottish Marine Institute has eight EG&G Ortec 576A dual unit silicon alpha detectors and an EG&G Ortec OCTETE eight port silicon alpha detector, giving a total alpha capacity of twenty four alpha detectors. We also have a Risø low-level beta Geiger-Muller Multicounter system, GM-25-5 for beta counting. For measuring naturally occurring and man-made radionuclides, we have three EG&G Ortec High-purity Germanium Coaxial gamma detectors, two Canberra Low Energy Germanium detectors and one Canberra Broad Energy detector. These are used to determine the activity of radionuclides and determine sediment accumulation and mixing rates.

Elemental Analysis, including Heavy Metals

The facilities that SRSL use at the Scottish Marine Institute include a Perkin Elmer Optima 4300DV. This is an Induction Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectoscopy (ICP-OES) instrument capable of multi-element trace metal analysis ranging from low ug/l to g/l levels of concentration. It is utilised to analyse marine sediment samples (to ISO 17025 standards).

Induction Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS) is also available, which is exclusively used for the trace metal analysis of a wide range of sample materials including natural water samples (both fresh and saline), organic tissue, marine sediments, biogenic carbonates and various other materials. The Thermo Scientific X Series 2 ICP-MS is a quadrupole based ICP-MS, which offers outstanding productivity for both routine and high performance analytical work, exclusively used for only liquid samples. The detection limits of various trace metals goes as low as ppt (parts per trillion) to as high as ppm (parts per million), is more dynamic and robust technique for trace metal analysis.

Both instruments are utilised to analyse marine sediment samples (to ISO 17025 standards).

SRSL also provide Induction Coupled Plasma Mass Spectoscopy using Laser Ablation. This system is used for the routine measurement of trace metals within biological samples.

Particle Size Analysis

Laser-particle size analysis (PSA) provides detailed information on the sediment grain size distribution and therefore texture. Textural data can be used to provide an estimate of deposition, transport and erosion rates as well as being a proxy for environmental information such as benthic ecology and biodiversity. The system SRSL use at the Scottish Marine Institute is a Meritics LS230 laser-diffraction Coulter Counter. The technique uses the obscuration of a laser to determine the shape, size and distribution of particles held in suspension. Particle sizes can be measured between 0.004 to 2000 microns (clays to coarse sand). Using this method the distribution of particles within a sediment sample can be determined.

Nutrient and Chlorophyll Analysis

The Lachat 8000 and Lachat 8500 are two flow injection autoanalysers (FIA) capable of measuring the major inorganic algal nutrients, ammonium, phosphate, silicate and nitrate down to 500 nano-molar level. In addition to the major inorganic nutrients it is also possible to analyse total dissolved organic nitrogen and total dissolved phosphorus.

Total inorganic carbon and nitrogen (TIC and TIN) and organic carbon (TOC) measurements are performed using a Costech ECS 4010 (Costech Analytical Technologies, CA, USA). This instrument is equipped with a double combustion/reduction furnace for flash combustion and automated simultaneous elemental analysis.

Routine measurement of carbon and nitrogen are performed on a variety of marine samples, such as deep sea sediments, suspended particulate material, seaweeds and cultured algae. Typically, less than 20mg of material is required to measure sub mg levels of carbon and nitrogen with a precision < 10 %. In addition to carbon and nitrogen, it is also possible to measure elemental hydrogen, sulphur and oxygen.

Automated Nitrogen Carbon Analysis for Gas, Solids and Liquids (ANCA-GSL) is used to measure not only the total nitrogen or carbon in a sample but also 15N and 13C levels in a wide range of biological and chemical samples.

The High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) facilities at the Scottish Marine Institute are used by SRSL for the measurement of algal photosynthetic pigments such as chlorophyll in aquatic and sediment samples. Final detection is by spectrophotometric or fluorimeteric methods and depends upon the optical properties of the pigment.

Organic Compound Characterisation

SRSL undertakes analysis of organic compounds in soil, sediment, water and air samples, using a wide range of analytical techniques. We provide qualitative organic analysis in-house and can also arrange identification of Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Trihalomethanes (THMs), Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB's) and other specific chemical compounds, using affordable and accredited laboratories.

Our Project Experience (Nuclear)


Our Project Experience (Marine Services)



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