School of GeoSciences

Cosmogenic Nuclide Laboratory

The facility supports in-house research, as well as academic and external services in preparing samples for the measurement of terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides within rock and sediment.

Female scientist wearing lab coat and gloves holding up a dropper in an aluminium beryllium laboratory

Terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides form in rock minerals exposed in the upper ~2 m of Earth’s surface through interaction with cosmic radiation. 

The concentration of cosmogenic nuclides in near surface rocks will increase through time until their production is matched by their losses through physical erosion and radioactive decay. Thus, the concentration of cosmogenic nuclides in rock or sediment is a balance between its exposure time and erosion rate. This knowledge can be applied in a range of settings to quantify dates and rates of Earth surface processes.

Cosmogenic nuclide concentrations are commonly used to determine:

  • ‘exposure ages’ such as glacier erosion, lava flows, buried sediments and flood deposits
  • ‘erosion rates’ such as rock surface erosion rates, land surface degradation rates, river incision rates and fault-slip rates

This facility is designed to make possible the measurement of terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides within rock and sediment. Here, we chemically extract cosmogenic isotopes from rock and sediment and prepare targets ready for measurement by Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) or Mass Spectrometry (MS). 

The AMS or MS analyses are conducted at the Scottish Universities Environment Research Centre (SUERC) or other collaborative institutions.

Scottish Universities Environment Research Centre: Accelerator Mass Spectrometry and Mass Spectrometry 

Information about our facility, and the process and applications for analysis are included in our poster available for download:


Contact the Cosmogenic Nuclide Laboratory

Contact details and information on access to the Cosmogenic Nuclide Laboratory for staff, students and visitors.

Laboratories and equipment

Our facility has several purpose-built laboratories, which were refurbished in 2016. Find out more about our range of facilities and equipment.


Find out about applications for cosmogenic nuclide concentrations. For example, cosmogenic nuclide concentrations are commonly used to determine ‘exposure ages’ and ‘erosion rates’.

Small Research Facility (SRF)

Our Cosmogenic Nuclide Laboratory is operated as a Small Research Facility (SRF).

A Small Research Facility (SRF) is a facility or service provided by the School and used for research and teaching.  They are also available for use by the wider community such as external academic or commercial use.  Our SRF's are available for hire or on a consultancy basis.  These charges are recognised by grant funders and can therefore form part of a grant submission.

Explore our Small Research Facilities (SRF)