Facilities and Equipment

Superior Research Facilities

The Environmental Science program provides cutting-edge labs and equipment designed with your needs in mind. Dubbed “the finest science building in the UW System,” Jarvis Hall provides you with the foremost facilities and instruments, so you can become an innovator in your chosen field. Learn more below:

Ultrasonic Cell Disrupter

This device is used in ultrasonic disintegration and homogenization. It has the capability of reducing substances to particles and dispersing them throughout a fluid, making it uniform in consistency. It also disperses insoluble substances into a liquid, accelerates chemical and biological reactions, such as the depolymerization of large molecules. The Ultrasonic Cell Disrupter is also useful in separation, extraction, leaching, disruption, mixing, scrubbing, and disintegration of substances.

UV/VIS Diode Array Spectrophotometer

This spectrophotometer is designed to measure the amount of light absorbed at each wavelength of the ultraviolet and visible light regions. The absorbance can then be plotted against the wavelength of light, to give an absorbance spectra.

Electromagnetic radiation in the visible and ultraviolet regions (wavelengths from 200-800nm) can be absorbed by electrons in most molecules. The UV or visible light energy is absorbed when the electrons are excited from their ground state to some higher energy level.

Differential Scanning Calorimeter System

This system detects thermal transitions of a sample when it is exposed to a temperature program. It measures enthalpy changes during sample transitions as a function of temperature or time, by using a heat flow plate to monitor temperature differential between the sample and an inert reference. Works with a Windows based thermal analysis software.


The TGA measures weight changes as a function of a precisely controlled temperature profile. Records weight readings during its complex temperature program, where the system links together multiple heating, cooling, and isothermal segments. Thermal Analysis Software is also used to set up the experiment, and plot the data.

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy is commonly used to analyze molecules, based on the identification of the molecule's chemical bonds. The FTIR system measures the absorbed radiation at different frequencies and obtains a spectra which acts like our fingerprint to reveal the identity of a specific substance, which is done by collecting detailed information about the chemical structure and composition of a sample.

NMR Spectrophotometer

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy is used to study the physical, chemical, and biological properties of matter, either a liquid or solid substance. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is analogous to EPR; however NMR is produced by the much smaller magnetism associated with unpaired nuclear spins. The NMR resonant frequency (usually that of protons in complex molecules) is slightly shifted by interactions with nearby atoms in the sample, thus providing information about the chemical structure of organic molecules and other materials. NMR is now extensively employed in medicine, although the use of the word "nuclear is avoided, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used. The technique provides high-quality cross-sectional images of internal organs and structures.

Gas Chromatography System

Gas Chromatography is a method of identifying substances and its properties by separating chemical components of a gas are separated by three processes: partition, adsorption, and volatility chromatography. The system operates by passing a sample through a coiled column inside an oven so it can be heated until its components vaporize. This allows affinity with the stationary phase and boiling point to be detected since compounds are carried through at different times. Retention time, the time between a compounds injection and detection by the sensor, is measured and can be compared with standards to identify the samples.

Gas Chromatography Integrator

This equipment process voltage signals from the gas chromatograph and can also process digitized data from its own memory and from the equipment in the network. It improves plot quality and quantifies samples by comparing samples with reference peaks. It allows for increase productivity, automation and enhanced analytical capability to increase confidence in results.

Gas Chromatography Auto Sampler

The 'automatic sampler' automates sample introduction, which reduces sampling errors and eliminates using excess time. Once the correct settings are entered, a number of things take place:

  • Robotics pick up a sample vial from the rotating tray and place it in the turret, and returns to its original position to pick another sample after the first is analyzed.
  • An injector fills a syringe with the selected volume and injects it to the chromatographer. As the needle penetrates the septum, the GC is triggered to begin recording.
  • The syringe is rinsed with solvent to the amount desired, and the solvent is disposed of in a waste vial after each use to avoid contamination.

X-Ray Diffractometer

X-ray diffraction is a versatile, non-destructive analytical technique for identification and quantitative determination of the various crystalline compounds, known as 'phases', present in solid materials and powders.

Identification is achieved by comparing the x-ray diffraction pattern - or 'diffractogram' - obtained from an unknown sample with an internationally recognized database containing reference patterns for more than 70,000 phases.

Modern computer-controlled diffractometer systems use automatic routines to measure, record and interpret the unique diffractograms produced by individual constituents in even highly complex mixtures.

Student Mac Lab and laser printer

There are 12 Mac G3 computers that contain many useful programs that allow students to draw molecular structures, analyze data, and complete laboratory reports for any of the chemistry courses offered.

Ultracentrifuge System

This provides both thermodynamic and hydrodynamic information about molecules in solution. Molecules can easily be analyzed at multiple pH values, ionic strengths, and within a broad temperature range (4 to 40°C.) This instrument can be used to determine:

  • solution molecular weight, and to assess the degree of homogeneity with respect to mass.
  • the overall hydrodynamic shape of a macro solute in solution.
  • the stoichiometry and equilibrium constants for interacting macro solutes.
  • whether aggregates exist, and if so whether the aggregation is a reversible or an irreversible process.

High Performance Liquid Chromatography System

The HPLC System can either be preparative or analytical. Preparative HPLC is isolating and purifying compounds, where analytical is obtaining information about the sample. It is used for identifying, quantification (determining a concentration of the sample) and resolution of a compound.

WISP Autosampler

The WISP autosampler allows for easier, more efficient analysis of samples, by reducing the percent of error and reducing human interaction between collections of data of the samples.

Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer

Measures the amount of radiant energy absorbed as a function of wavelength or frequency. Ultraviolet radiant energy can be employed as the source of incident radiant energy, and it has been found that certain groupings of atoms in organic compounds influence the intensity and location of the absorption bands in the ultimate spectrum, which is helpful in identifying certain compounds with this technique by comparing absorption spectrums and their correlations.

They use the absorption of light to measure the concentration of gas-phase atoms. The samples (usually liquids or solids) must first be vaporized in a flame or a graphite furnace.

Rotary Evaporator

Rotary evaporators are used to remove solvents from reaction mixtures and can accommodate volumes as large as 3 liters. They are found in almost every organic laboratory.

A typical rotary evaporator has a heatable water bath to keep the solvent from freezing during the evaporation process. The solvent is removed under vacuum, is trapped by a condenser and is collected for easy reuse or disposal. Most labs use a simple water aspirator vacuum on their rotavaps, so a rotavap cannot be used for air and water-sensitive materials unless special precautions are taken.


A fluorimeter is an instrument that measures the amount of fluorescent radiation produced by a sample exposed to monochromatic radiation.

Polarized Light Microscopy

In addition to providing information on absorption color and boundaries between minerals of differing refractive indices obtainable in bright field microscopy, polarized light microscopy can distinguish between isotropic and anisotropic materials. The technique exploits optical properties of anisotropy to reveal detailed information about the structure and composition of materials, which are invaluable for identification and diagnostic purposes. This technique is highly useful in the identification of asbestos.

Phase Contrast Microscope

These are widely used for examining specimens such as biological cells and tissues. It makes visible the changes in phase that occur when non-uniformly transparent specimens are illuminated. In passing through an object the light is slowed down and becomes out of phase with the original light. With transparent specimens having some structure, diffraction occurs causing a larger phase change in light outside the central maximum of the pattern. The phase-contrast microscope provides a means of combining this light with that of the central maximum by means of an annular diaphragm and a phase-contrast plate, which produces a matching phase change in the light of the central maximum only. This gives greater contrast to the final image, due to constructive interference between the two sets of light waves. This is bright contrast; in dark contrast a different phase-contrast plate is used to make the same structure appear dark, by destructive interference of the same waves.

Capillary Electrophoresis

A separation technique involving high voltages across buffer filled capillaries to separate samples. The samples can be separated based on size, charge or pH differences. This works when migration of charged electrical species that are either dissolved or suspended in and electrolyte through which an electric current is passed. Detection is then achieved through the process of UV-absorbance, or UV-diode detectors. Results can then be calculated and plotted through use of the corresponding software.

Stereo Microscope

The stereo microscope has binocular eyepieces to allow adjustment for each individual's needs. This instrument is good for close up inspection and more commonly dissection. It is available with 10x and 30x magnification. A fluorescent illuminator is positioned beneath a circular, frosted, glass stage. A second light is located overhead, near the objective lenses. This light moves with the lenses during focusing, assuring the best lighting. Side by side toggle switches allow illumination of either, both, or neither lights.

It helps analyze the outputs of detectors to determine what elementary particle, or ion has entered an experiment. The pulse height analyzer detects the peak pulse amplitude, and holds this voltage long enough to perform an A/D conversion and output the digital data to the data assembly software.

Millikan Oil Drop

It was originally used to determine the charge on an electron (fundamental unit of charge). Oil gets sprayed out of an atomizer (used for spraying perfume). The small oil drops pick up some unknown number of electrons due to friction between the oil and the nozzle. These oil drops get sprayed between two oppositely charged parallel plates. Light is shined upon the oil drops from the side causing them to show up like little stars when looking through a microscope used to view the region between the plates. The weight of an oil drop can be calculated by using the terminal velocity of the freely falling oil drop and the formula for terminal velocity of a sphere. Once the weight is determined, the voltage across the plates can be adjusted until the upward electric force exactly cancels out the weight of the oil drop. When the exact balance is reached, the oil drop will remain suspended between the plates.

E/m Ratio

The Electron charge-mass ratio can be collected by observing magnetic deflection of electrons inside a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). This must be at a fixed energy in a uniform magnetic field. This is achieved through use of a voltmeter and Helmholtz coil.

Helmholtz Coil

A Helmholtz coil consists of two coaxial circular current loops with the same radius, separated from each other by one radius. The Helmholtz coil system concept, developed by a German physicist over a century ago, is a system that is normally used to generate magnetic field levels of specified volume and uniformity, allowing scientists and engineers to perform numerous experiments and test functions that require a known ambient magnetic field. Helmholtz field generation can be static, time-varying DC or AC, depending on applications.

Cathode Ray Tube

Cathode Ray Tube is a vacuum tube that produces images when its phosphorescent surface is struck by electron beams. CRTs can be monochrome-using one electron gun, or color which typically uses three electron guns to produce red, green, and blue images that produce a multicolored image when combined.

Geiger-Mueller Tube

A small tube filled with gas that detects radiation in the presence of voltage. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and x-rays can be detected with use of the Geiger-Mueller tube. The gas most commonly used in these tubes is Argon.

Bragg Scattering

Bragg Scattering is used to measure optical lattice properties such as density or refraction index. It makes use of mirrors and laser beams, and uses micro-waves to detect fluctuations. Images are obtained after reflecting an image off a mirror with a hole in it. The mirror hole is positioned on a Bragg ring, to the right of the beam stop.

Rydberg Constant

 An absorption spectrum of a gas in an ultraviolet region, consisting of a series of lines that become closer together towards shorter wavelengths, merging into a continuous absorption region. The absorption lines correspond to electronic transitions to successively higher energy levels. The onset of the continuum corresponds to photoionisation of the atom or molecule, and can thus be used to determine the ionisation potential.

Jarvis Hall Science Wing