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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research Group: Geochemistry

Currently Active: 

Geochemistry comprises more than 30 researchers and postgraduate students who apply state-of-the-art geochemical analysis and modelling to address scientific questions of major societal, economic and environmental importance.

In the Geochemistry group we use our state-of-the-art geochemical facilities to perform the precise and accurate analysis of the chemical and isotopic composition of variety of Earth materials (e.g. rocks, waters, (bio)minerals, sediments, ocean particles, hydrothermal fluids etc.). These analyses are used to provide novel insights into a wide range of problems from reconstructing past climates to tackling pressing issues like carbon capture from the atmosphere and the sourcing of metals and elements critical for the “green” energy revolution. 

Radioactive sample screening.
Radioactive sample screening in our National Nuclear User Facility.

Our specific research themes are:

Past to Future Climate Change: Reconstructing past climates using novel isotopic and geochemical methods (e.g. boron isotopes) to better understand the climate system and improve the prediction of our future warmth. 

Environmental Geochemistry and Radioactivity: Examining our impact on the environment and its impact on us by determining the sources, distributions and interactions of chemical elements and radionuclides in rocks, soils, water, air and organisms (including humans).

Volcanic and magmatic processes: Investigating the processes occurring during magma production and crustal development, by studying the chemical and physical properties of mantle plume, mid-ocean ridge and subduction zone volcanoes.

Critical Elements and Metal Deposits: Exploiting novel techniques to find new sources of, and understand the processes involved in the formation of, deposits of metals and elements critical for emerging “green” technologies.

Carbon Dioxide Removal and Storage: Researching carbon capture and storage in geological reservoirs and greenhouse gas removal via enhanced weathering to better develop methods for removing CO2 from the atmosphere to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.

The strengths of the group include: ultra-low level trace element and isotope analysis, radiogenic isotope geochemistry and geochronology, environmental radiochemistry, speciation and reaction modelling, and analytical technique development and refinement. Our facilities are open to external users. 

For more information about the group, its activities or to gain access to our facilities please contact Professor Gavin Foster.

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Past climates over the last 60 million years provide context for our future climate scenarios (from Tierney et al. 2020; Science
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Cruise ship in port in Southampton with emission plume spreading over the city.
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Assessing the processes trapping microplastics and other contaminants in estuaries, in laboratory/flume.
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Fieldwork in the REE-enriched Twyfelskupje carbonatite complex, southern Namibia.
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CarbFix pilot CO2 injection site during drilling (credit: Juerg Matter).
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Natural carbonation of mantle peridotite and sample collection, Oman (credit: Juerg Matter).

The Geochemistry Group is equipped with a world-class range of analytical equipment and associated laboratories. The instruments and techniques available can be applied to a diverse range of applications including environmental, geological, nuclear, medical, archaeological and oceanographic. The facility is used for a wide range of research purposes and also for commercial analysis. For examples of commercial activities please click here.

For initial enquiries about our capability or using the facilities contact Professor J. Andy Milton

The facilities available are briefly described below and further details are available on each by clicking on the links.

Quadrupole ICP-MS: Thermo X-SERIES 2

This instrument is used for high-throughput elemental analysis via solution or solid sample introduction using the laser.

Triple Quadrupole ICP-MS: Agilent 8900

This second-generation ICP-QQQ (or ICP-MS/MS) has a range of configurations to cover applications from routine analyse to advanced research and high-performance materials analysis via solution or laser ablation mode.

High Resolution ICP-MS: Thermo Scientific Element XR

This is a high-sensitivity elemental and isotopic analysis instrument for solution or solid samples using the laser. It is particularly suited to difficult matrix and problematic elemental analyses.

Time of Flight ICP-MS: Nu Instruments Vitesse

The ICP Time of Flight (TOF) mass spectrometer has the ability to collect complete mass spectra at >33,000 per second. This ultra-rapid, wide mass range acquisition is ideal for applications such as laser ablation imaging and nanoparticle analysis.

Thermal Ionisation: Thermo Scientific Triton Plus

This instrument provides high precision isotope analysis on samples that have been loaded onto a metal filament. Currently measuring the following systems: Sr, Nd, Pb.

Multi-collector ICP-MS: Thermo Scientific NEPTUNE and Neptune Plus

We have two of these high-sensitivity isotope analysis instruments allowing analysis of solutions or solid samples using the laser. Currently measuring the following systems: Li, B, Cr, Fe, Sr, Nd, Pb, Hf, U, U-Pb, U-Th and Pu.

Laser Ablation: ESI Lasers NWR193 and UP213

These two laser ablation systems can be used for micro-sampling of solid samples coupled to any of our ICP systems (including the TOF).

Micro drill: New Wave Micromill

For the precise micron-scale sampling of solid materials for subsequent geochemical and/or isotopic analysis.

Clean Chemistry Laboratories

A suite of Class 100 chemistry laboratories for sample preparation and purification prior to geochemical and/or isotopic analysis. Take a tour of our facilities below.

Particle Characterisation: Asymmetric Flow Field-Flow Fractionation (AF4)

This system is capable of characterising the size of nanoparticles, polymers, and proteins (ranging in size from 1nm to 10microns) via a chromatography-like elution technique.  It can be coupled to a wide range of instruments such as our range of ICP.

Carbon Sequestration Laboratory

A wet chemistry lab facility to study water-rock interaction processes related to carbon capture and storage.

Organic Geochemistry Laboratories

Hosts a dedicated sample preparation lab, wet chemistry lab space, and an instrumentation facility designed to characterise organic matter from the environment and the geological record.

GAU-Radioanalytical (GAU)

GAU-Radioanlytical Laboratories is a long established commercial group providing radioanalytical services, consultancy and research support for government, industrial (nuclear and environmental) and academic sectors.


NNUF-EXACT (Next Generation Accelerated Characterisation Technologies) is part of the National Nuclear Users Facility enabling research and training in accelerated nuclear characterisation and remediation technologies underpinning civil nuclear programmes, decommissioning and site clean-up and new nuclear infrastructure.

Take a 360° tour of our facilities by clicking on the videos below.

1) Isotope Geochemistry Clean Laboratory
2) Isotope Geochemistry Analytical Laboratory
3) Organic Geochemistry Wet Laboratory
4) Organic Geochemistry Analytical Laboratory



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