Planetary Science and Astrobiology

The planetary science and astrobiology laboratory is located in Johnson Hall room 226. Our lab is equipped with standard apparatus such as a fume hood, air and gas lines, assorted electronics, glassware, hotplates, dewars, magnetic stirrers, and assorted pipets. We also have on hand a number of reagents of planetary interest including inorganic chlorate, perchlorate, chloride, sulfate, nitrate, and ferrocyanide salts. Some specific instruments in the laboratory are as follows:

Differential Scanning Calorimeter

Our Q2000 DSC is manufactured by TA Instruments, their top-of-the-line research-grade instrument. The DSC is cooled by a liquid nitrogen system, which allows for fast cooling rates and a temperature range from 100-700 K. Our DSC includes an automatic sample analyzer and tray, capable of holding 50 samples at one time, which is interfaced to a dedicated computer. The DSC system can be programmed to automatically load and analyze samples with arbitrarily complex experimental protocols. Samples can be cooled or warmed at rates ranging from <0.1 to ~100 K / min, held isothermal for a given period of time, stepped upwards at a given temperature increment over a given temperature period, or cooled ballistically to a given temperature. For sample preparation, we have a TA sample press and associated dies for encapsulating aqueous/solid samples into hermetically sealed sample pans.

Multi-Cool Low Temperature Bath

The Multi-Cool low temperature bath is mechanically refrigerated with temperatures to -80°C. The magnetic stirrer and vortex breaker design help ensure isothermal conditions in this bath throughout its temperature range. Utilizing a liquid medium, the Multi-Cool handles heat loads substantially larger than its liquid nitrogen counterparts and does not utilize expendable refrigerant. The Multi-Cool is available with on/off control or a digital controller providing ±0.1°C stability. Digital controller comes complete with RS-232 interface.

Model 335 Lakeshore Temperature Controller

Our temperature controller is used to measure temperature with various Platinum Resistance Thermometers in our lab, as well as regulate temperature bath by modulating the heat output in cartridge heaters using a PID control loop.

XPE 205 Analytical Scale

Our workhorse scale from Mettler Toledo, capable of 0.01 mg accuracy. Maximum weight is 220 g. The scale is fitted with an electronic static control unit to eliminate measurement errors due to static electricity. Interfaced via RS232 to a laboratory computer for error free recording of weights.

Isopiestic Apparatus

We have a set of 10 glass isopiestic apparatus specially designed and manufactured in collaboration with the University of Washington Physics Glass Shop. These devices are used to experimentally measure water activity (i.e. water potential) in materials (aqueous solutions or soils) to 0.01 % accuracy. They consist of two glass vials for holding a reference and unknown material respectively, and a PTFE high vacuum stopcock for maintaining a vacuum environment. These devices are a significant improvement over traditional isopiestic apparatus, which are expensive, bulky, and time-consuming to use.

Vibrating Densitometer

We have a L-DENS-437 vibrating densitometer manufactured by Anton Paar for measuring densities in aqueous solutions. The vibrating element is made of chemically resistant Hastelloy metal for analyzing corrosive salt solutions. The device measures densities based on the oscillating U-tube principle, in which the resonant period of oscillation in a liquid-filled U-tube is a function of the liquid density. The densitometers are capable of measuring density to an accuracy of 10 ppm.