The acid laboratory is specially built for dissolving up to five tons of rock per year in the search for extraterrestrial spinels. The 400-square-meter large lab is located at the ground floor in building 403 of Medicon Village in Lund. A typical week about 200 kg of rock is dissolved in 400 liters of hydrochloric acid. Much of the dissolution process is automated. Neutralized waste liquids are transported in a pipe line system to tanks, and from there being taken care of by external experts in waste product handling.
Another asset is our Iridium Triple Coincidence Spectrometer, that can measure iridium concentrations at parts-per-trillion levels in geological samples. In the 1980s Luis Alvarez in Berkeley constructed the world’s first iridium coincidence spectrometer. Our spectrometer, built by researchers at the Nuclear Physics Division at Lund University, is a development of that spectrometer. Extraterrestrial material contains about 10,000 times as high concentrations of iridium as terrestrial materials. Thus only a tiny amount of extraterrestrial matter in a sediment will lead to enhanced iridium concentrations. We use the spectrometer, for example, to locate ejecta layers from asteroid impacts on the ancient Earth.
Our extraterrestrial spinel grains are analyzed for isotopes and chemistry in cooperation with some of the world’s leading cosmochemistry laboratories. We analyze the grains for elemental chemistry, silicate inclusions, and the isotopes of oxygen, neon, helium and chromium. With this array of analyzes we can obtain almost the same information from our extraterrestrial spinel grains as if we had found the entire meteorite that contained the spinels.