The Rock Volume Characterisation Cluster studies the structural and compositional characterisation of rocks and their constituent parts, from micron to kilometre scale. The cluster comprises a set of leading analytical capabilities and expertise, outlined below, that focus on the characterisation of materials at a range of scales and target different attributes (mineralogy, geochemistry, structure etc). Current activities in the cluster are focused on the integration of the individual capabilities in order to offer a more complete, coherent characterisation for a range of geological applications. The cluster is comprised of four facilities/areas of specialism:
Core Scanning Facility (CSF) – The facility is centered on a suite of core scanners, including two multi-core XRF scanners, an X-Ray CT scanner and multi-sensor core logger. Combined, these analytical techniques are non-destructive and are used to characterise the chemical and physical properties of rock cores from around a hundred microns up to kilometre scale, providing data to underpin a breadth of science applications. The CSF was established in 2018 as part of the BEIS-funded UK Geoenergy Observatories project (UKGEOS) and characterisation of materials associated with the project is the initial focus on this new facility, providing information that underpins subsurface studies in regard to use of the subsurface with respect to energy, waste and resources.
Geochronology and Tracers Facility (GTF) – GTF is part of the NERC-funded National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF), in addition to being a BGS facility. This group specialises in using a range of isotopic analyses of rocks and minerals for the dating of rocks and minerals and as ‘tracers’ for a breadth of geological and environmental processes, using a combination of approaches using both spatial resolution and high-precision techniques. The chronology capabilities are applied to a range of materials, from traditional uranium-bearing minerals to less commonly utilised phases such as carbonate, allowing for a wider range of applications. The same analytical capabilities are used for the application of tracer isotopes (e.g., Si, Sr, Nd, Pb) to a range of geological, environmental and archaeological science topics.
Mineralogy and Petrology – Mineralogy and petrology is an established set of capabilities at BGS, from bespoke thin-section preparation though optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction to thermal analysis and allied techniques. These methods allow for the identification and quantification of the mineralogy and petrology of rocks, soils and particulates. This information is used to underpin a wide range of materials characterisation and research, including diagenesis, mineralisation and fluid/rock interaction.
Palaeontology and Stratigraphic Volumes – The BGS Palaeontology Laboratories are part of a broader capability in palaeontology in BGS, which also includes extensive collections of macrofossils and microfossils. Our palaeontology laboratories constitute essential sample preparation facilities in palynology and micropalaeontology for a range of stratigraphic uses. The data is combined with other stratigraphic data types (e.g. chemistry and physical properties) to help characterise ‘stratigraphic volumes’ that are targets for use in understanding the properties of such volumes at the scales from microns to kilometres.