Home Archived April 23, 2019

Understanding Our Planet Through Chemistry

Mobile Laboratories

Looking for halos of mineralized areas or testing for pollution is like playing the game of hide-and-seek. The target can be found more easily if you are given hotter or colder clues. To provide these clues, analysts in mobile laboratories perform chemical analyses for geologists in the field. As a result, samples can be evaluated quickly. The use of mobile laboratories by the USGS dates back to the turn of the century. These pictures show a mobile laboratory used in Montana. It was a horse-drawn wagon that carried the necessary reagents, glassware, etc. that were set up in a tent.

Photo of early horse-drawn mobile laboratory in a wagon.You can find the halo of a deposit faster, if you are constantly aware whether you are getting closer or farther away. To rapidly determine the distribution of elements in the field in 1907, portable analytical equipment was used. [229k]

Photo of kneeling scientist performing analyses in a tent. When the field area was reached, a tent was set up and wet chemical analyses were performed in primative conditions from a kneeling position. [321k]

Photo of modern mobile laboratory trailer.Over the years, the mobile laboratories have become more refined. Since the 1960's, these laboratories have provided USGS geologists and geochemists with over 1 million analyses, providing timely information for evaluating the mineral-resource potential of public lands. [115k]

Photo of scientist in laboratory.Today, the principle of mobile laboratories is the same as the wagon of earlier times, but the equipment is significantly more advanced in technology. In addition to clean, relatively comfortable surroundings, which are protected from the weather, sophisticated electronic equipment shown here can be used to run a large number of sensitive analyses. [175k]

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