University of Washington College of the Environment ESS Home

Department Research Labs

Advanced Plasma Propulsion Laboratory

One large (9ft long by 5ft diameter) and one small (2 ft long by 1 ft diameter) plasma chambers are used to study advanced plasma systems that would facilitate low cost in-space propulsion to further space exploration. Concepts presently being investigated include small scale micro-thrusters for small multi-spacecraft missions to very large high power systems for potential large spacecraft. Students participate in the development and optimization of prototypes using an array of plasma diagnostics and a fast data acquisition systems. For more information, contact Robert Winglee.

Aeronomy and Optics Laboratory

The Aeronomy and Optics Lab serves as an educational, training, research and development facility, as well as being the staging area for our field site experiments in Antarctica and New Zealand, where Global Climate Change studies in the Southern Hemisphere are in progress. The laboratory serves as the support arm for these far away experiments, as well as to provide new and improved optical instrumentation which will perform measurements with higher precision than previously attained, rugged instrumentation for unmanned sites, or to study atmospheric species which have not been used previously as tracers in our remote-sensing studies. In addition, design and fabrication of instrumentation which supports the main optical studies, such as an unmanned sunlight-insensitive cloud detector, have been carried out in the Aeronomy and Optics laboratory. As part of the support, the laboratory is where the Antarctic Research Associates receive their yearly training. The laboratory investigations provide a wide range of research possibilities for students. For more information, contact Gonzalo Hernandez or Michael McCarthy.

Atmospheric Electrodynamics Laboratory

The Atmospheric Electrodynamics Lab in the Space Sciences Group is a space for electronics development and deployment, as well as for payload fabrication for suborbital flights. We have both fabrication benches, as well as operational network computers for the WWLLN lightning network in the Atmospheric Electrodynamics Lab. Additionally, we share a large Assembly Room with the other Space Science Labs for balloon and rocket payload buildup. Our lab has a conduit to the roof for VLF and GPS antenna deployment. We share a clean room for dust free flight instrument development. The Atmospheric Electrodynamics Lab is the home of the WWLLN: World Wide Lightning Location Network. We build the hardware, and process the incoming global data in this lab. Additionally, we have built electric field and optical transient detectors for dozens of stratopheric balloon and for several upper atmospheric rocket flights. These flight instruments led to the optical lightning detector now flying on the C/NOFS satellite. For more information, contact Robert Holzworth.

Cosmogenic Nuclide Chemistry Laboratory

The Cosmogenic Nuclide Lab provides facilities for preparation of samples for analysis of Be-10, Al-26 and Cl-36 in a range of geological materials. The lab contains dedicated areas for mineral separation, low-blank chemical separations and target preparation for accelerator mass spectrometry. Samples produced in the lab are analysed at accelerator facilities in the United States and Australia. We work on a variety of cosmogenic nuclide applications in geomorphology, paleoclimatology and geologic hazard assessment, as well as basic cosmogenic nuclide methodology. For more information, contact John Stone, Director.

Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory

The Environmental Geochemistry Lab provides facilities for processing and analyzing geochemical samples including natural waters, extractions of soils and sediments, and digests of rock, soil, and sediment. Instruments in the lab included ICP-OES (Perkin-Elmer 3300DV), ICP-MS (Finnegan Sola), Total organic/inorganic carbon analyzer (OI-700), and basis water parameters such of pH and conductivity. For more information, contact Ron Sletten.

Geomicrobiology Laboratory

The Geomicrobiology Lab houses the facilities necessary for growing microbes and performing low temperature aqueous geochemical and geomicrobiological experiments. The lab contains an autoclave, laminar flow hood, incubator/shaker, and an anaerobic chamber for growing microorganisms. There are two high speed refrigerated centrifuges and a freeze dryer for preparation of biomass and mineral powders. The analytical equipment in the lab consists of an autotitrator, a spectrophotometer, an inverted light microscope, and an isothermal calorimeter. Research foci in the lab are surface reactivity of minerals and microorganisms and thermodynamics of natural systems. For more information, contact Drew Gorman-Lewis.

GIS (Geographical Information Systems) Research Laboratory

The GIS Research Lab (known as the Puppet Lab for arcane historical reasons) specializes in the analysis of topographic data and geographical information systems applications. The lab is located next to the Quaternary Research Center (QRC) and houses a Spatial Data Engine, Internet Map Server, mammoth file server and web servers, and powerful student workstations with GIS and image processing software. Although the lab is open for use across the department, research projects in the lab tend to focus on geomorphological topics involving the analysis of digital topography on Earth and Mars. For more information, contact Harvey Greenberg, Senior Computer Specialist.

IsoLab - Stable Isotope Laboratory

The IsoLab specializes in the analysis of light stable isotopes. The IsoLab is divided into sample preparation and sample analysis laboratories and has five mass spectrometers and one laser devoted to the analyses of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. Research projects in the IsoLab are primarily focused on the application of stable isotopes to the study of paleoenvironments and the evolution of the earth system. For more information, contact Andrew Schauer, IsoLab Manager.

Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory

The Laser Ablation ICPMS Lab specializes in the analysis of trace elements concentrations and isotopic ratios of solid material at high spatial resolutions (10-100 microns spot sizes). Samples, in the form of rock thin sections, polished slabs or grain mounts, are placed in an ablation chamber equipped with a high-resolution camera. After choosing an area of interest, the sample is ablated by a short wavelength (193 nm) laser pulse and carried by a He flow to the ICPMS (Nu instrument multi collector or Finnigan SOLA quadropole ICPMS). Research projects focus on the trace elements characterization and radiogenic isotopic ratios of magmatic minerals to study volcanic processes and evolution of the Earth's mantle and crust. For more information, contact Bruce Nelson.

Rockets and Instrumentation Lab

The Rockets and Instrumentation Lab designs and builds rockets to launch science payloads to high altitude using high power amateur rockets. Design, fabrication, testing, and integration all happen in house, with the rockets which are then launched at an offsite (Mansfield WA, Black Rock NV, and China Lake CA). Past projects include high altitude launch systems (via kite and weather balloon), cluster and multistage rockets, and a penetrating system for sample return.

Remote-Sensing Laboratory

The Remote-Sensing Lab supports the research efforts of the terrestrial and planetary remote-sensing efforts within the Department of Earth and Space Sciences. It has provisions for an optical bench, a fume hood, and room for a 2-m environmental chamber for spectral characterizations. Lab facilities include an ASD VNIR field spectrometer as well as a FLIR infrared camera. Terrestrial research projects have included spectral characterization of rocks and vegetation, and measurements of spectral effects of roughness. Presently the lab is undergoing transition to support planetary research. It is linked with the GIS Geomorphology Lab. For more information, contact Alan Gillespie.

Seismology Laboratory

The Seismology Lab harbors research with the PNSN (Pacific Northwest Seismic Network) and other, regional and global studies by University of Washington faculty. PNSN computers in the Seismology Lab capture data from seismometers across Oregon and Washington to detect and characterize earthquakes and volcanic activity. Seismology Lab research focuses on aspects of the Cascadia subduction zone, with an emphasis on great earthquakes, seismic hazard mitigation, episodic tremor and slip, and volcanoes. For more information, contact Ken Creager, Heidi Houston or John Vidale.

Soil Geochemistry Laboratory

The Soil Geochemistry Lab facility includes a foreign soil receipt and storage room where all foreign soil samples are stored securely and initial processing including drying, sieving, and splitting is conducted. Samples are heated to sterilize prior to release or disposal. Separate rooms are used for processing and analyzing soil. Preparation of soils for particle size analysis including organic and oxide removal, water extraction and sequential extraction of soils and sediments. Equipment includes bench-top shaker, ultrasonic bath, centrifuges, water bath in hood. Analysis of particle size is by laser diffraction (Beckman-Coulter LS 13-332). For more information, contact Ron Sletten.

Space Plasmas Laboratory

The Space Plasmas Laboratory is equipped for the development of instrumentation for studying plasma processes in the upper atmosphere and the near-Earth space environment. Photon, electron and ion sources are available to stimulate detectors for measuring response functions. Workbenches with electronic test equipment are used for development and prototyping. A large shared payload assembly room is used for flight instrument testing, integration, and calibration. In support of these activities, there is equipment for environmental testing, including vacuum chambers that provide pressure typical of the upper atmosphere or magnetosphere. An adjacent class-10000 clean room is available for preparing instruments that are susceptible to degradation or damage by dust particles. For more information, contact Michael McCarthy.

Space Plasma Simulation Laboratory

The space plasma modeling group uses high performance desktop computers to simulate the near space environment around various planets and moons within the solar system. Codes utilize the comprehensive treatments of the fluid and particles aspects of space plasma and are run it on the current technology, ranging from the newest multi-core CPU systems to the latest, bleeding edge Graphics Processing Units. The group focuses on code development, providing ample opportunities with regard to base-level coding, while simultaneously ensuring a strong understanding of physical processes. Studies include the plasma environments around the Earth, Moon, Mars, Mercury, and the outer planets and their satellites. For more information, contact Erika Harnett or Robert Winglee.

Structure Tectonics Laboratory

The Structure Tectonics Lab is a multi-purpose workroom. A Dell GX620 PC with dual monitors and a Zeiss petrographic microscope are the main items of equipment. The room houses an extensive collection of hand samples used for illustrating and teaching about small-scale structures and fault rocks. Some are on more or less permanent display, and some are accompanied by thin sections. The room houses a complete library of the journals Tectonics and Journal of Structural Geology, theses and dissertations supervised or co-supervised by Prof. Darrel Cowan, and relevant texts and publications. Typically one or two graduate students use the workroom as an office, and the room also serves as a space for seminars and meetings of our reading group. For more information, contact Darrel Cowan.