Natural Resources Analytical Laboratory (NRAL)

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
What the facility does

Chemical analysis that supports environmental and agricultural research, including stable isotope analysis.

Areas of expertise

A full-service analytical lab, the Natural Resources Analytical Laboratory (NRAL) contains state-of-the-art instrumentation to analyze soil, water, plant, and tissue samples. Also housed within this lab is the Stable Isotope Facility for Ecosystem Research (SIFER), which provides isotope ratio (2H, 13C, 15N, 18O) analysis of environmental samples. Together, NRAL and SIFER have decades of experience supporting various environmental research programs, including those in land reclamation, soil biogeochemistry, soil fertility, agriculture, forestry, contamination monitoring and aquatic ecosystems.

Research services

NRAL provides various analytical services for soil, water, plant, and tissue samples. These include: metals and S, P analysis by ICP-OES, combustion elemental analysis (%C, N, H), ion analysis (NH4+, NO3-, NO2-, Cl-, SO42-, PO43-), total carbon/total organic carbon/total inorganic carbon and total nitrogen (TC/TOC/TIC and TN) in waters and solids, pH, EC, soil texture/particle size analysis, alkalinity, and stable isotope analysis (2H, 13C, 15N, 18O). Common sample prep methods include extractions for analysis of total and available soil nutrients (i.e. NPK), and acid digestions for total recoverable metals.

Sectors of application
  • Agriculture, animal science and food
  • Chemical industries
  • Energy
  • Environmental technologies and related services
  • Fisheries and aquaculture
  • Forestry and forest-based industries
  • Life sciences, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment
  • Mining, minerals and metals



Thermo Scientific iCAP 6300 Duo ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectrometer)

Analysis of metals and S, P in digests and extracts of soil, plant, and tissue samples, as well as water samples

CEM MARS 5 Microwave Digestion System

Microwave Accelerated Reaction System for acid digestion of soil, water, plant, and tissue samples

Thermo Scientific Delta V Advantage Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS) and Thermo Scientific Flash 2000 HT Plus Organic Elemental Analyzer (EA)

Combustion EA and IRMS system for total stable isotope analysis (2H, 13C, 15N, 18O) of soil, plant, and tissue samples. Liquid injection system available for 2H, 18O analysis of water samples.

Thermo Scientific Delta V Plus Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS), Thermo Scientific TRACE 1300 Gas Chromatograph (GC) with GC-Isolink, Thermo Scientific UltiMate 3000 High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) system with LC IsoLink, and OI Analytical Aurora 1030W Total Organic Carbon (TOC) analyzer

Compound-specific IRMS analysis by GC-IRMS for 2H, 13C, 15N in a variety of samples and extracts, including alkanes and phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) in soils.  Compound-specific IRMS analysis by LC-IRMS for 13C in water samples.  13C IRMS analysis of dissolved organic or inorganic carbon (DOC/DIC) in water samples.

Thermo Scientific Flash 2000 Organic Elemental Analyzer (EA)

Combustion elemental analyzer for %C, %N, %H analysis in solid samples

Shimadzu TOC-L CPH Total Organic Carbon Analyzer

Combustion analyzer for dissolved or total carbon, total organic carbon, and total inorganic carbon (TC/TOC/TIC) and total nitrogen (TN) analysis of waters and extracts

Thermo Scientific Gallery Plus Discrete Autoanalyzer

Autoanalyzer system for the colourimetric analysis of waters an extracts.  Wide variety of methods, including NH4+, NO3-, NO2-, Cl-, SO42-, PO43-

Beckman Coulter LS 13 320 Laser Particle Size Analyzer (PSA)

Laser diffraction system for particle size analysis of soils and sediments, from 0.020 µm – 2000 µm

Gilson Spinning Riffler

Rotary sample divider system for homogeneous subsampling of soils, sediments, and powders

Retsch MM400 Ball Mill

Ball mill for fine grinding of solid samples (soils, plant tissue, etc.)