Sample Handling

BGS's Sample Preparation and Testing Facility prepares up to 25 000 samples per year in a suite of purpose-built laboratories using trained technicians working under quality controlled conditions. The facility processes a range of materials including rocks, sediments, soils, vegetation, wood, landfill and plastics using externally audited procedures designed to preserve sample integrity and provide high quality sub-samples.

Following receipt by our laboratories samples are temporarily stored under appropriate conditions (frozen, refrigerated or under dry conditions at ambient temperature) pending their QA registration and labelling.

If required, samples are stabilised by air drying, oven drying or freeze drying as a first step in their preparation for analysis. This is followed by one, two or occasionally three stages of crushing and milling in agate to improve sample homogeneity. Unless specifically requested, milling in metallic media is avoided to prevent contamination of samples by scientifically important metallic elements.

Unloading agate milling vessels containing finely milled soil powder
Clamping agate milling vessels containing soil samples into a high speed ball mill

The facility can provide specialised preparation services including low temperature milling techniques designed to minimise the loss of volatile or unstable analytes.

Sample considered to be contaminated (e.g. industrial waste, landfill, soils from brown field sites etc.) may be prepared in the NERC Environmental Materials Facility which has enhanced hazard control systems to manage any risks to the health and safety of personnel processing contaminated materials.The laboratories have control measures and screening techniques in place to identify and manipulate materials containing hazardous levels of heavy metals, organics, biological organisms, asbestos or radioactivity.

Samples may vary in size from 0.1 g up to 600 kg and following processing they may be presented for analysis by BGS or external analysts.


Please contact Dr Charles Gowing or Charles Brettle for further information

See also