Laboratory coordinator: Professor David Jolley
Other lab users: Dr Robert Daly, Adam McArthur (PhD), Alena Ebinghaus (PhD), Kieran Wall (PhD)
The palynology facility at the Department of Geology and Petroleum Geology (Meston G10) is a specially adapted laboratory for the use of hydrofluoric acid (HF) and other chemicals in the preparation of samples for the analysis of organic-walled microfossils. The lab is used in the production of samples for the use of PhD students and staff at the university, as listed above, and for clients in the hydrocarbon industry.
Analysis of organic-walled microfossils or ‘palynomorphs‘ (e.g. terrestrial spores and pollen grains, marine and fresh water algae) is highly significant within the disciplines of bistratigraphy, geochronology and palaeoecology. Notably, it can significantly aid our understanding of past ecosystems, climate, phytogeography, sedimentary provenance and help us to accurately age rock strata for example. As such, palynology underpins much of our research on large igneous provinces (StratLIP) and early Paleogene climate change including that of the palaeoarctic and the Boltysh Meteorite Impact Crater located in the Ukraine (www.abdn.ac.uk/boltysh).
The main property of HF is its ability to dissolve silicate minerals, which form the basis of many sedimentary rocks. Additional chemicals are used depending on the properties of individual rocks. Nitric acid (HNO3), for example, is used to dissolve particularly organic-rich rocks such as coal, and hydrochloric acid (HCl) is used for carbonate-rich rocks such as marls. Other chemicals are also used, such as potassium hydroxide (KOH) and Schultz’s solution (a mixture of KCl and HNO3) depending on the rock, aiding the clarity of sample slides.