About us

Members of Staff

  • Prof Dave Polya - Room G.27, Head of Unit.
  • Mr Paul Lythgoe - Room 1.22A, Technical Director & Lab. Manager, i/c ICP-AES, ICP-MS,IC-ICP-MS, X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF) and Clean Rooms.
  • Dr Bart van Dongen - Room 2.50, Organic Geochemical Analysis GC, GC-MS and LC-MS.
  • Mr Alastair Bewsher - Room 1.25A, i/c IC, TOC, HPLC and Sample Preparation (Including XRF).

Facilities are managed by Mr Paul Lythgoe and Prof Dave Polya

Location: Suite of laboratories and offices (1.18, 1.22A, 1.22B, 1.25A, 1.27) 1st floor.

Equipment Available

This facility includes a number of analytical instruments, mostly for the purposes of elemental analysis of waters and solid geological media, together with sample preparation areas. The major items of analytical equipment and their most common use include: ICP-AES for inorganic analysis (ppm range) of water and digested rocks, sediments and soils. ICP-MS for inorganic analysis (ppb range) of water and digested rocks, sediments and soils.

IC for analysis of anionic components of waters. TOC for total organic carbon determinations of water. UV Spectrophotometer for determination of ammonia and nitrite. Electrodes for in situ pH, Eh and conductivity measurements of waters.

Sample Preparation facilities include Microwave digestor for digestion of rocks, sediments and soils. Fume cupboards including fume cupboards with scrubbers for work with HF, Weighing room, ovens, water baths, Class 10,000 Clean Room for instrumental analysis Class 1,000 Clean Room for preparation of ultrapure solvents.

Services Available

Services available include access to preparative areas, access to instrumentation, loan of equipment, laboratory support, technical advice and technical support (setting up instrumentation and/or running samples). Most major items of equipment will normally only be operated by MAGU personnel or by intensively trained users where appropriate. Unless alternative arrangements are agreed beforehand, users will be provided with raw instrumental data. In house data-reduction software, DBSCORR & CHEMCAL, is available to users to assess the adequacy of blanks, drift and calibration for their own particular purposes. There are also commerical packages available to carry out similar tasks. Given the wide variety of compositions of geological materials, matrix effects can lead to significant inaccuracies for some techniques and although calibration standards and some CRMs are routinely used, MAGU has neither the funds nor the human resources to purchase standards to cover all eventualities.

We strongly advise users to include their own carefully selected standards to ensure the accuracy of the data provided. By all means provide such standards blind, so that we can identify systemic analytical problems. We are of course happy to discuss analytical programmes with users.


In order to ensure that these heavily used facilities are used safely and effectively, all users are advised to plan their use of the facilities (in consultation with your supervisor, if appropriate) several WEEKS in advance. It is imperative that all users

  1. have received adequate training, particularly with regard to health & safety;
  2. allow sufficient time for adequate sample preparation before booking analytical instruments; and
  3. book in advance to ensure that machine time is available (this is particularly critical for the determination of labile analytes). Please note that there are a number of postgraduate courses related to the use of the facilities.


Analytical Objectives

MAGU staff will be happy to provide advice on appropriate methods to use but IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU KNOW YOUR ANALYTICAL OBJECTIVES, in particular

  1. analytes to be determined
  2. required precision, accuracy and detection limits and
  3. number of samples to be analysed, BEFORE you consult with MAGU staff.

MAGU staff will also want to know about the nature of your samples before proffering advice. Most analytical methods require the use of calibration standards with a range of concentrations commensurate with that in the samples. It is important, therefore, that users are able to notify MAGU staff of the approximate concentrations (order of magnitude) of analytes that are expected in their samples. Please help us and fellow users by planning your work well in advance, restricting your samples to those that are really needed, complying with the health & safety requirements of the facility and ensuring that bookings & appointments are promptly keep (this includes having the samples ready at the right time).

Those writing research grant applications or planning student projects which will make use of MAGU facilities are advised to consult MAGU staff regarding technical feasibility, costs and machine time availability.

Using the Facilities

All new users must consult Mr. Paul Lythgoe BEFORE commencing any work . For your protection, for the protection of those around you and to prevent damage to expensive equipment, no use of the facilities will be authorised until adequate training has been given or adequate previous training demonstrated. We have an excellent safety record, please help us keep it that way.

All users must familiarise themselves with the Laboratory Code of Practice and/or Health & Safety rules pertaining to the laboratory in which they work BEFORE commencing any work.

All users of the preparative laboratories (Rooms 1.18) must complete the log-book provided to let other users know what they are doing and lodge completed COSHH forms for their work.

All users are asked to complete a JOB REQUEST form for each job/hire undertaken by MAGU staff. This should be submitted with any samples. This form contains information that may facilitate the more ready processing of your request. To this end, it will also be helpful for users of instruments run by MAGU staff to provide a completed SAMPLE LIST form with the samples in run-order. Both forms are available from MAGU staff, from outside Room 1.25A or from the MAGU website. Comments & Feedback If you are less than completely satisfied with the service you receive from the Analytical Geochemistry Unit, please do not hesitate to contact either the director of the laboratory manager, both of whom welcome comments that may help us improve the facility. In the first instance, however, we would encourage you, to raise any issues with the MAGU staff member with whom you are directly dealing. Please bear in mind that over a hundred people use the service each year, so the small team of MAGU staff (some of whom have extensive responsibilities in other areas) are generally not in a position to act as academic supervisors for students for whom prior formal arrangements have not been made. It is the responsibility of users and their academic supervisors to collect & store suitable samples, determine project objectives and analytical requirements and to assess and interpret received instrumental data. If you have a problem with data reduction or you think that you may have encountered a systemic analytical problem then please contact Professor Polya. Any problems with instrumentation or with personnel should be addressed to Mr. Lythgoe. We also welcome positive feedback if you have received particularly good service!

Booking Machine Time & Prioritisation

Machine time on the ICP-AES, ICP-MS or IC instruments is booked via Mr Paul Lythgoe in room 1.25A. First time users in particular should consult MAGU staff before booking time. Priority is largely determined on a first-come first-served basis, although essential maintenance and repairs will have overriding priority to ensure the continued effective running of the unit.


Health and Safety

Chemical laboratories inherent contain many hazards, so responsible management of them requires us putting in place health & safety rules and regulations that must be complied with. Before commencing any work all users must consult the laboratory manager, Mr Lythgoe or his designates and have carried out, had authorised and appropriately documented and submitted a suitable COSHH risk assessment. If you are submitting samples for analysis (rather than carrying out the analysis yourself) then you still have a legal and moral obligation to MAGU staff to inform them of the hazards associated with your samples.

MAGU staff reserve the right to refuse to handle any samples submitted without an adequate health & safety assessment.

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