Murdock Research Laboratory

Wide shot of main MRL instrument groupThe Murdock Research Laboratory housed in the Department of Geological Sciences hosts multiple state-of-the-art instruments and expertise in a range of analytical techniques. The facilities are open to researchers for collaborative or non-collaborative access and for commercial access. The expert academic, technical and professional staff support the facility users from initial contact and project development, through to sample preparation, instrument training, data processing and interpretation for publication.

Instrument Availability

View a calendar of the current instrument schedules.


  • The Process

    1. New users should email the Lab Manager at <> to arrange a meeting to discuss their research needs and determine which techniques would be beneficial.
    2. Prior to hands-on instrument training, users need to undergo basic safety training by lab staff to gain physical access to the spaces. This includes reading the chemical hygiene plan for the lab(s) they wish to use and completing the chemical hygiene plan awareness certificate for the lab(s).
    3. After this, a link to calendar access for the relevant instrument(s) via Teamup will be shared with the user. No account creation is required.
    4. Users will then schedule one-on-one, hands-on sample preparation and/or instrument training with the Lab Manager. Training will begin when new users have their own research samples for analysis. No preemptive training is performed. The time it takes for the hands-on training varies depending upon the instrument.
    5. Some of the instruments can perform multiple techniques. Users will need to be trained to operate the instrument to perform the basic techniques first and demonstrate their ability before being trained on the more advanced applications of the instrument.
    6. Users will be allowed to schedule independent instrument time once the Lab Manager is satisfied with the ability of the user to operate the instrument(s) safely and collect quality data.
    7. The instruments are charged by the hour and billing is performed quarterly.
    8. Retraining may be required if a user has not operated the instrument for more than 6 months.

  • Access to X-ray equipment

    To operate the X-ray diffractometer (XRD) or portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) instruments users will need to watch the X-ray safety video, read the CWU Murdock Research Laboratory Radiation Safety Manual and complete the X-ray Instrumentation User Declaration before hands-on training on the X-ray instruments will begin.

  • Sample Guidelines

    1. All samples being brought into the Murdock Research Laboratory must be adequately labelled. The labels should include:
      1. The name of the samples owner
      2. Phone contact for the sample owner (for urgent contact)
      3. Email address for the sample owner (for non-urgent contact)
      4. General description of the sample such as soil, eclogite, yttrium oxide etc.
      5. Sample hazard description such as non-hazardous, fibrous inhalation risk, corrosive etc.
    2. All liquid samples must be in a suitable secondary container with adequate capacity to contain all of the fluid from the samples. The secondary container can contain the information from points a to e above.
    3. Samples can only remain in the lab whilst the experiment is running. Once complete the samples need to be removed from room 310, there is sample storage space in room 313 if required (ask the Lab Manager about this).

  • Laboratory Environmental Health and Safety

    Information on Central Washington University’s health and safety requirements can be obtained from the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) webpages. Entry to the Murdock Research Laboratory housed in Discovery Hall, room 310 requires all personal to be attired with fully enclosed shoes (no sandals or flip-flops), no high heels and fully covered legs (no shorts). No open beverages are allowed within the laboratory and there is a table provided outside for such items to be stored upon. No eating within the laboratory is allowed. Users must obey all posted EH&S notices and follow all standard operating procedures (SOP) in the MRL laboratories. Whenever a user is working with chemicals or waste, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn including: a lab coat, gloves and googles.

    All bulk acid work should be performed in the sample preparation area in the fume hood. Users who need to work with the liquid nitrogen need to undergo specific training and complete the Liquid Nitrogen User Declaration. Whenever working with liquid nitrogen appropriate PPE must be worn including: a lab coat, face shield and cryo-gloves. Within the Murdock Research Laboratory Discovery Hall, room 310, a safety shower and four eye-wash stations are provided.

    A first aid kit is located within the sample preparation area on the black shelves. The lab also contains a halon fire extinguisher which can be used on the instruments, as well as a fire blanket. Please notify the Lab Manager if any of the health and safety equipment is used, to ensure replacements can be provided in a timely fashion.

    For hazard information about the chemicals, products and gasses contained with the laboratories please consult the safety data sheets.

  • Murdock Research Laboratory Terms and Conditions

    While working in the Murdock Research Laboratory (MRL) in the Department of Geological Sciences, all users are required to comply with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) procedures as specified in the EH&S pages of the Central Washington University webpages. Users will obey all posted EH&S notices and follow all standard operating procedures (SOP) in the MRL laboratories. Only trained users will be able to book instrument time based on their certificate permissions and applicable fees will be charged for booked instrument time. Users must not interfere with any of the MRL instruments if they have not booked the time or are not certified to use the instrument by MRL staff. Users must also agree not to provide access to the MRL laboratories to unregistered users without the specific permission of MRL staff. For tours, classes or demonstrations suitable times need to be organized with the MRL staff in advance. If a user is conducting a tour through the MRL laboratories, the user is responsible for the EH&S of all tour participants and ensuring they are appropriately attired. Users are not allowed to train other users, whether they are registered or not. Users agree to report all instrument faults or irregularities to MRL staff. Users agree to accurately complete all record keeping required by the MRL to monitor the use of the instruments e.g. log books and booking systems. Samples are the responsibility of the user and MRL does not accept any responsibility for loss or damage of samples left at the facility. All samples should be adequately contained and easily identifiable via labels containing the researcher’s name, sample name, sample constitution (such as chemical formula or rock type) and any sample hazards (such as fibrous – inhalation risk). Users will need to bring a USB or external HDD to copy data from the instrument computers and MRL will periodically clear data off the instrument computers due to space restrictions. The computers operating the instruments are not to be used for surfing the internet. Post-processing PCs are provided in Discovery Hall, room 303 for performing data reduction and manipulation. Any work that is published or publicly presented where MRL instruments have been used should acknowledge the role of MRL and its staff (see the Acknowledgement section at the bottom of this page for exact wording). Failure to comply with any of these terms and conditions may result in the loss of access to the MRL laboratories.


The laboratory contains a variety of techniques designed to collect high resolution images or measure the elemental concentrations or isotopes or crystallography of a wide range of samples. The techniques available can be split into two sampling categories: (1) instruments which can analyse Solid Samples and (2) instruments which can analyse Liquid Samples.

Instruments to analyse Solid samples

  • Zeiss Axio Automated Stage Optical Microscope

    easy to operate due to automated functionality and use of macros. Reproducible homogeneous illumination ensures accurate imaging. Use ACR to automatically detect and configure objectives and contrast modules. Use reflected light and observe your samples in brightfield, darkfield, differential interference contrast (DIC) or polarization. Use transmitted light and examine your samples in brightfield, darkfield, differential interference contrast (DIC), polarization.

  • FEI Quanta 250 Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

    is as variable-pressure, environmental scanning electron microscopes (ESEM). Has three operating modes (high vacuum, low vacuum and ESEM) to accommodate a wide range of samples. Equipped with an Oxford Instruments X-MaxN Energy Dispersive Spectrometer (EDS) and a Nordlys Nano for Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD). The size of the motorized stage is 50mm in both X and Y, with the motorized z-range of 25mm.

  • Rigaku MiniFlex 600 Benchtop X-ray Diffractometer (XRD)

    is a multipurpose analytical instrument that can determine: phase identification and quantification, percent (%) crystallinity, crystallite size and strain, and lattice parameter refinement. MiniFlex XRD system delivers speed and sensitivity using the D/teX Ultra: silicon strip detector together with a 600W X-ray source and 6-position automatic sample changer.

  • Bruker Tracer 5i Portable X-ray fluorescence device (XRF)

    has the capability to quantify or qualify nearly any element from Magnesium to Uranium, depending on specific instrument configurations. Allows you to take the battery operated analyzer to the sample rather than having to bring the sample into the lab. Can be used to analyze multiple sample types, including liquids, slurries, powders, soils, sediment, sludge, cellulose, polymers, paper, solids, metals and alloys.

  • Agilent 8900 Triple Quad Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometer (ICPMS) when used with the ESI New Wave Research NWR193 laser

    utilization of a short pulse width 193nm excimer laser source provides highest peak power for efficient ablation of all materials to produce small particles that can be efficiently transported and ionized by the ICP. The result — higher sensitivity, improved stability, and less fractionation.

  • Netzsch STA449 Jupiter Simultaneous Thermal Analyser (STA)

    can quickly analyse thermal stability, decomposition behaviour, composition, phase transitions, and melting processes. Easy to use top-loading system with exceptionally precise balance resolution (25 ng resolution at a weighing range of 5g) and highest long-term stability. Pluggable sample carriers for Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA), Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC), Differential Thermal Analysis (DTA), as well as Temperature-Modulated DSC (TM-DSC). Automatic Sample Changer (ASC) for up to 20 samples.

  • Malvern Mastersizer 3000, choice of Hydro MV or LV Cell

    is a laser diffraction particle size analyzer which delivers rapid, accurate particle size distributions for both wet and dry dispersions with the minimum of effort. Measuring over the nanometer to millimeter particle size ranges. Hydro LV - A large volume automated dispersion unit suitable for applications where sample availability is not an issue or where larger volumes are required to ensure good sampling. Hydro MV - A medium volume automated dispersion unit specifically designed for applications where sample is in short supply and/or non-aqueous dispersants are necessary.

  • Retsch Technology Camsizer IIP4II

    is a particle analyzer to comprehensively characterize dry, free flowing bulk materials. The CAMSIZER P4 reliably analyzes all size and shape parameters of a great variety of bulk materials and granulates including spherical and irregularly shaped grains and crystals, spray-dried and fluid bed granular materials, pellets and extrudates.

  • CytoViva Hyperspectral Microscope

    was specifically developed for spectral characterization and spectral mapping of micro to macro scale samples. Hyperspectral images appear very similar to a traditional optical image with one important difference. Each pixel of a hyperspectral image provides the complete reflectance spectral response of that pixel’s spatial area within the VNIR or SWIR spectral range. This enables nondestructive spectral measurements of nanoscale elements in the full spatial context of the sample image.

Instruments to prepare Solid samples

  • ESI MicroMill

    is a microsampling device designed for high resolution milling to recover sample powder for chemical and isotopic analysis. The combination of submicron stage resolution and positional accuracy, real-time video observation and a custom designed software system allows for sampling of complex accretionary structures in skeletal and crystalline materials.

  • Frantz LB-1 and L-1

    magnetic barrier laboratory separators exploit either paramagnetic or diamagnetic properties to separate dry materials according to magnetic susceptibility. Material is fed through the hopper, which provides adjustable, stable flow into a suitable feed trough and then onto the chute. Material is deflected by opposed magnetic and non-magnetic (gravitational) forces, controlled by the current and side slope respectively. This process is visible in front of the pole pieces. Continuous deflection as the material moves down the chute separates particles of desired susceptibility. Material is physically segregated by a divider on the chute near the end of the separating space. Segregated materials are discharged into separate receiving containers.

  • Struers CitoVac

    user-friendly vacuum impregnation unit, equipped with a spacious vacuum chamber especially designed for impregnation. Perfect for porous materials, such as specimens for failure analysis with cracks, porous casts and composites, electronic components, rocks, minerals, ceramics and spray coatings. Perfect impregnation of porous specimens requires that there is no air in the pores and cracks of the specimens when the impregnation material is applied. The only way to obtain this is to impregnate under vacuum. Just a few touchpad keys make for easy operation. The display shows settings, present vacuum and time. The display and touch pad are placed behind the chamber to avoid soiling with mounting material. Up to twelve 1 inch round specimens can be impregnated simultaneously. Special mounting cups make it fast and easy to handle multiple specimens at the same time without spillage of impregnation material in the vacuum chamber or outside on the cabinet. All parts exposed to contact with mounting materials are disposable in order to minimise cleaning.

  • Struers Accutom 100

    provides precision cutting and grinding with a smart and intuitive user interface optimized for precision and ease of use. The Accutom-100 includes a MultiCut function for producing plane parallel cuts and a grinding mode with multiple bi-directional sweeps between steps to ensure perfect planeness. Two grinding modes are available for accurate control of material removal to achieve the optimum preparation result. Positioning with fingertip precision is easy. The operating keys on the control panel move the specimen holder in the X-direction with 5 or 100 μm increments, and the cut-off/cup wheel motor in the Y-direction. Mounting the specimen holder directly on the X-movement arm ensures a high level of precision and parallelism. An intuitive user interface provides a clear overview of each method and related cut-off wheels. A smart turn/push knob enables fast selection of settings and large icons provide an easy-to-understand overview of functions.

  • Struers Tegramin 30

    is a grinding/polishing machine is designed to produce perfect and reproducible polished surfaces. The system uses precise dosing of diamond suspension and lubricant to increase reproducibility of the preparation results. It is equipped with a pump calibration function ensuring constant dosing levels throughout the entire lifetime of the machine. The Tegramin 30 can be used to prepare either single specimens or groups depending upon the holder. For fast and easy handling, the specimen mover head will always stop at the position at which it was started, and a specific key is used to rotate the specimen mover plate to facilitate insertion and removal of specimens. 

  • Buhler VibroMet 2

    is a vibratory polisher designed to prepare high quality polished surfaces on a wide variety of materials, including electron-backscatter diffraction (EBSD) applications. The 7200 cycles per minute horizontal motion produces a very effective polishing action, providing superior results, exceptional flatness and less deformation. Vibratory polisher removes minor deformation remaining after mechanical preparation, revealing the stress-free surface without need for the hazardous electrolytes required by electro-polishers. Combine the VibroMet 2 with Colloidal Silica to chemically-mechanically polish (CMP) a specimen to a surface finish suitable for EBSD.

Instruments to analyse Liquid samples

  • Agilent 8900 Triple Quad Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometer (ICPMS) when used with Aglient SPS 4 Autosampler

    offers a range of configurations to cover applications from routine contract analysis to advanced research and high performance materials analysis. Currently configured with helium, hydrogen and oxygen reaction gases making it powerful and flexible multi-element analyzer. Controlled reaction chemistry for consistent, reliable results. Low detection limits, even for previously difficult elements such as S, Si, P. It is connected to an SPS 4 high-performance autosampler.

  • Agilent 5110 Inductively Coupled Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES)

    features unique Dichroic Spectral Combiner (DSC) technology that enables synchronous radial and axial measurements. Combined with a vertical torch and high speed, zero gas consumption VistaChip II CCD detector, the 5110 ICP-OES (also referred to as ICP-AES) runs even your toughest samples up to 55% faster using 50% less argon, without any compromise on analytical performance.

  • Thermo Scientific Delta V Plus Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS)

    system combine outstanding sensitivity with excellent linearity and stability to tackle applications as diverse as δ13C analysis of PAHs in soil, 15N/14N monitoring in chlorophyll derivatives, and detection of honey adulterants. Delta V systems can be equipped with a wide range of sample preparation devices and inlets, including preconcentrators, elemental analyzers, GC interfaces, LC interfaces, and continuous flow inlets, to ensure your instrument system is perfectly suited to your application. Sensitivities up to 1100 molecules per ion in continuous-flow mode.

  • Thermo Finnigan DeltaPlus XP Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS)

    is the universal routine and research stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer for all applications using dual-inlet and continuous-flow techniques. Its extended image plane supports continuous flow D/H measurements as well as the determination of atmospheric gases. The amplifier dynamic range is 50 V.

  • Picarro L2130-I Isotopic H2O Analyser

    provides a platform for advanced research into all aspects of the water cycle: water vapor, liquid water, or water trapped in solids. Make highly precise, simultaneous measurements of δ18O and δD with minimal drift. The stability of the Picarro L2130-i enables improved performance for continuous water vapor analysis applications, such as ambient atmospheric studies and paleoclimatology using continuous ice core melter systems.

  • Thermo Scientific Dionex ICS-5000+ Ion Chromatography (IC)

    system provides high performance, convenience, flexibility and the ability to be optimized for capillary flow rates. The dual capillary system can be customized to run two different analyses concurrently on a single sample, or analyze two samples in parallel. Alternately, run the same analysis on both channels to double throughput.

  • Shimadzu TOC-L Total Organic Carbon (TOC)

    adopts the 680°C combustion catalytic oxidation method, which was developed by Shimadzu and is now used worldwide.  While providing an ultra wide range of 4 μg/L to 30,000 mg/L, this analyzer boasts a detection limit of 4 μg/L through coordination with NDIR. This is the highest level of detection sensitivity available with the combustion catalytic oxidation method.  In addition, the combustion catalytic oxidation method makes it possible to efficiently oxidize not only easily-decomposed, low-molecular-weight organic compounds, but also hard-to-decompose insoluble and macromolecular organic compounds. Capable of TC, IC, TOC (= TC-IC), NPOC and even TN (total nitrogen) measurements.

  • Sunset Organic Carbon and Elemental Carbon (OCEC)

    is the industry standard for environmental and workplace monitoring. This instrument uses a proven thermal-optical method to analyze for OC-EC aerosols collected on quartz filters. In the Lab OC-EC Aerosol Analyzer, samples are thermally desorbed from the filter medium under an inert helium atmosphere followed by an oxidizing atmosphere using carefully controlled heating ramps. A flame ionization detector (FID) is used to monitor the analysis. Our proven low dead volume carrier gas control system and proprietary quartz oven design provide high sensitivity with ultra low carbon background and no oxygen contamination.

  • Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2)

    has high sensitivity, fast response, and specificity to elemental carbon make it the premier instrument for characterizing air pollution sources and documenting thin atmospheric layers of contamination. It is also ideal for measuring soot in snow, ice or water and for calibrating other black carbon-measuring instruments like the Aethalometer.

Field Equipment

  • SmartPlane Freya

    is a professional commercial UAS / UAV / Drone and is capable of performing missions of surveying, mapping, city-planning, mining, forestry, agriculture, volume calculations, science, wildlife protection and much more. A complete aerial geomatics, geospatial technology, equipment platform for georeferenced orthophotography and 3D modelling. Prepared for use with a camera, the production of Digital Terrain Models (DTM) and Digital Surface Models (DSM), for Geographic Information Systems (GIS), is done through partner software Pix4d and Agisoft.

  • DJI Phantom 2

    is a ready to fly, multifunctional quad-rotor system that is compact with a highly integrated flying platform that is compatible with DJI Zenmuse aerial gimbals. Customized H3-2D and H3-3D gimbal support for precision flight and stable hovering suitable for research. 25min flight time per battery which are easy to swap and have advanced power management. Auto return-to-home and landing ensures easy operation.

  • Sensors & Software pulseEKKO Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)

    has a selectable operating bandwidth from 12.5 MHz to 1000 MHz to optimize the system spatial resolution required by target size and exploration depth. The fully bistatic design enables variable antenna offsets and orientations for advanced survey types such as multi-offset, transillumination and multi-polarization. The selected components can exploit many deployment configurations available for practical field operation. Data are acquired in Sensors & Software’s industry standard format for analysis with a range of processing and visualization software products. Interchangeable antennas with bandwidths of 12.5, 25, 50, 100 and 200 MHz use fibre optic linked transmitter and receiver electronic modules. All antennas are lightweight, flexible and portable with simple assembly and support structures. All the antennas have adjustable handles. Fibre optics provides the high performance needed for low frequency deep GPR sounding. Bandwidths of 250, and 500 MHz are provided by shielded transducer sets. The square transducers are lightweight and portable with simple assembly and support structures. 250 MHz and 500 Mhz transducers available.Transducers are units which have antennas and electronics assembled into a monolithic package to optimize performance. Several antennas or transducer sets can be used concurrently when using a multichannel adapter. The digital video logger (DVL) has a high-resolution, sunlight-visible, touch screen and an intuitive user interface for efficient data collection. Easily adjust survey parameters including survey type, antenna geometry, stacking and triggering to optimize your GPR survey.

  • Topcon OS Series Total Station

    is a professional grade compact total station with an IP65 rated housing. Built for on-the-go tasks with a far reaching, precise firing EDM, extended use batteries, and data collection software right on the instrument. Work directly on the bright, color touchscreen using the MAGNET® Field on-board data collection software. Projects move faster by being able to do point collection, description entry and on-screen calculations.

  • Licor LI-8100A Soil Gas Flux Carbon Monitoring System

    measures CO2 flux from soils. A modular system, you can use the LI-8100A to rapidly survey emissions from numerous locations in a study site. With a compatible trace gas analyzer you can measure the flux of nearly any gas, including N2O, CH4, CO, and isotopic species. These chamber design ensures that the presence of the soil collar and chamber baseplate, as well as the closing action of the chamber bowl, minimally affect the soil environment. Allowing you to adjust critical parameters to quickly get the best results, SoilFluxPro™ Software that provides powerful tools to recompute results and evaluate datasets.

Publication Acknowledgement

Please include the following statement in the acknowledgment section of every document which utilises data collected the from Central Washington University Murdock Research Laboratory:

The authors acknowledge the use of facilities, plus the scientific and technical assistance of the instrument staff at the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Multidisciplinary Research Laboratory, Central Washington University, USA, a facility partially funded by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

If the Agilent 5110 Inductively Coupled Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES) has been used, please also include the following line in the acknowledgment:

The authors also acknowledge NSF grant number 1626484 for funding the Agilent 5110 Inductively Coupled Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES).

Contact Us

Marie Takach
Department of Geological Sciences
Discovery Hall Office: Room 338
Office Phone Number: 509-963-2826

Dr Christopher Mattinson
Department of Geological Sciences
Discovery Hall Office: Room 226
Office Phone Number: 509-963-1628

Dr Carey Gazis
Department of Geological Sciences
Discovery Hall Office: Room 332
Office Phone Number: 509-963-2820

Murdock Research Laboratory is located in Discovery Hall Room 310

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