Rock Volume Characterisation Laboratory Cluster

BGS Science Facilities

The Rock Volume Characterisation Cluster studies the structural and compositional characterisation of rocks and their constituent parts, from micron to kilometre scale.

The cluster comprises a set of leading analytical capabilities and expertise, outlined below, that focus on the characterisation of materials at a range of scales and target different attributes (mineralogy, geochemistry, structure etc). Current activities in the cluster are focused on the integration of the individual capabilities in order to offer a more complete, coherent characterisation for a range of geological applications.


The Core Scanning Facility (CSF) was initially established in 2018 as part of the BEIS-funded UK Geoenergy Observatories project. The facility is centred on a suite of core scanners, including two multi-core X-ray fluorescence (XRF) core scanners (Itrax multicore scanner and Geotek MSCL-XYZ), an X-ray computed tomography (CT) core scanner (Geotek RXCT) and multi-sensor core logger (Geotek MSCL-S).

These analytical techniques are non-destructive and are used to characterise the chemical and physical properties of rock core, sediment core and rock samples from around a hundred microns up to kilometre scale, providing data to underpin a breadth of science applications.

Capabilities of the scanning facility are:

  • gamma density
  • magnetic susceptibility
  • P-wave velocity
  • non-contact electrical resistivity
  • natural gamma activity
  • rotating x-ray computed tomography (2D and 3D)
  • near infra-red imaging
  • ultra-violet imaging
  • high-resolution line scan imaging (50-micron resolution)
  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF)

For more detailed information about our capabilities, please go to UKGEOS Core Scanning Facility.

In addition to characterising core from the UKGEOS observatory, the scanning facility works on projects from academic partners, commercial clients and governmental agencies. Projects can be large and small, from hundreds of meters of core to 10s of centimetres.

Staff working in the Core Scanning Facility (CSF) are Dr. Magret Damaschke (CSF manager), Dr. Elisabeth Steer (CSF deputy manager), Cameron Fletcher (CSF technician).

For any enquiries about the facility please contact For access to the facility, please navigate to the access tab of the UK Geoenergy Observatory site.

The Geochronology and Tracers Facility (GTF) is part of the NERC-funded National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF), in addition to being a BGS facility. This group specialises in using a range of isotopic analyses of rocks and minerals for the dating of rocks and minerals and as ‘tracers’ for a breadth of geological and environmental processes, using a combination of approaches using both spatial resolution and high-precision techniques. The chronology capabilities are applied to a range of materials, from traditional uranium-bearing minerals to less commonly utilised phases such as carbonate, allowing for a wider range of applications. The same analytical capabilities are used for the application of tracer isotopes (e.g., Si, Sr, Nd, Pb) to a range of geological, environmental and archaeological science topics.

Mineralogy and petrology is an established set of capabilities at BGS, from bespoke thin-section preparation though optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction to thermal analysis and allied techniques. These methods allow for the identification and quantification of the mineralogy and petrology of rocks, soils and particulates. This information is used to underpin a wide range of materials characterisation and research, including diagenesis, mineralisation and fluid/rock interaction.

The BGS Palaeontology Laboratories are part of a broader capability in palaeontology in BGS, which also includes extensive collections of macrofossils and microfossils. Our palaeontology laboratories constitute essential sample preparation facilities in palynology and micropalaeontology for a range of stratigraphic uses. The data is combined with other stratigraphic data types (e.g. chemistry and physical properties) to help characterise ‘stratigraphic volumes’ that are targets for use in understanding the properties of such volumes at the scales from microns to kilometres.

Need more information?

Please contact the head of the Rock Volume Characterisation Laboratory Cluster

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Ince Marshes © Peter Corcoran

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