Organic Geochemistry Laboratory - Equipment and capabilities

Organic Geochemistry Laboratory banner

We investigate the composition of bulk organic matter and specific organic compounds in environmental samples from ancient and modern aquatic and terrestrial environments and in petroleum. Currently, the research in this laboratory spans from petroleum geochemistry to environmental and climatic research in lakes and oceans in New Zealand, Australasia, Antarctica and many locations worldwide in collaboration with leading scientists all over the world.

The Organic Geochemistry Laboratory is set up for biomarker analyses in all types of environmental samples:

  • Sediments
  • Soils
  • Sedimentary rocks
  • Water column particulate matter
  • Microbial and plant biomass
  • Petroleum source rocks and oils
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Research directions of our biomarker research comprising environmental and climate change and petroleum. We work on ancient and modern aquatic and terrestrial systems in New Zealand, Antarctica and other regions in the world. We study lake and ocean sediment, soil and rock, and petroleum samples.

Our laboratory is dedicated to extraction, isolation, identification, quantification and compound-specific isotope analyses of a large variety of organic compounds including:

  • Paleoclimate indicators (e.g., alkenones and glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers, GDGTs)
  • Saturated, aromatic, and polar hydrocarbons
  • Steroids and hopanoids
  • Fatty acids
  • Pigments
Thin layer chromatography – a separation technique to illustrate visibly the composition of pigments from algae and plants, in this case obtained from a lake sediment sample. The method uses differences in polarity of organic solvents to separate the pigments within complex mixtures of organic material. This separation principle is commonly used in organic geochemistry for analyzing a variety of organic molecules by gas and liquid chromatography.

Thin layer chromatography – a separation technique to illustrate visibly the composition of pigments from algae and plants, in this case obtained from a lake sediment sample. The method uses differences in polarity of organic solvents to separate the pigments within complex mixtures of organic material. This separation principle is commonly used in organic geochemistry for analyzing a variety of organic molecules by gas and liquid chromatography.

Laboratory setup

The laboratory offers dedicated space for organic matter and lipid biomarker research including

  • fume cupboard
  • rock mills and crushers
  • freeze dryer
  • ovens and furnaces
  • microbalances
  • centrifuge
  • all basic laboratory equipment such as solvents, other chemicals, glassware, and other materials and consumables.
extractor
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Biomarker extraction and solvent evaporation:

  • Ultrasonic extraction
  • Soxhlet extraction
  • Accelerated Solvent Extraction (ASE)
  • Büchi rotary evaporator
  • Büchi Syncore evaporator
  • Nitrogen concentrator

Instrumentation for biomarker analyses include:

  • Gas chromatograph coupled to flame ionization detector (GC-FID), nitrogen phosphorous detector (GC-NPD) and mass spectrometer (GC-MS)
  • Pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS)
  • High performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (HPLC-APCI-MS) system (through the Marine Geochemistry Laboratory at GNS Science, Avalon, Lower Hutt)
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Other instrumentation for complementary analyses available at GNS Science (as part of other laboratories at GNS Science):

  • Elemental analyser isotope ratio mass spectrometers (EA-irMS) 
  • Source rock analyser (SRA)
  • Petrographic microscope including spectral camera for organic petrography 
  • Gas chromatographs for greenhouse, volcanic and noble gas analyses
  • Radiocarbon and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) facility