an academic laboratory, unique in France, capable of analyzing any terrestrial and extraterrestrial rock or mineral

an academic laboratory, unique in France, capable of analyzing any terrestrial and extraterrestrial rock or mineral

The Rock and Mineral Analysis Service (SARM) is a national tool of the CNRS. Housed in Nancy within the Petrographic and Geochemical Research Center (CRPG), it is a world reference for the analysis of rocks and minerals.

Do you know the Rock and Mineral Analysis Service (SARM), a very discreet laboratory that has been around since the 1950s? It is a service of the INational Institute of Universe Sciences (INSU) of the CNRS. It is housed in Nancy, in the heart of the Petrographic and Geochemical Research Center (CRPG).

Here you can analyze any rock. The technique used is that of alkaline fusion. A very particular process that allows you to obtain complete results, undoubtedly the best on the market. Furthermore, it is here that most of the requests for analysis come from French research laboratories, but also from abroad. The SARM is also sought after by large private companies.

At the moment, the strongest demand is for lithium. The lab is inundated with requests for analyses. Pierre-Yves Martin, head of SARM’s mineral geochemistry unit, has dozens of small vessels in front of him. “We will measure the lithium in the rocks that have been dissolved in these jars. There are currently many lithium research studies underway. We are asked to measure lithium in the materials entrusted to us and which are geological samples.

The results are provided as a percentage of lithium in the material in the form of a ratiot”. On the jars, codes to identify the applicants, allow the sources to be kept anonymous. We will not know anything more about the lithium researchers.

We are able to provide an analytical service of the chemical composition of almost all the elements of the Mendeleïev periodic table

Christophe Cloquet, director of SARM

Rock and mineral analysis service takes time. Here, Christophe Cloquet, director of SARM, tells us, “the reliability of the results is essential”. It is a worldwide reference. And that takes time. “The SARM is an analysis service of the National Institute of Universe Sciences of the CNRS. Our area of ​​expertise is the analysis of chemical elements in all types of materials including rocks and minerals and also all organic materials.

We are able to provide an analytical service of the chemical composition of almost all elements of Mendeleev’s periodic table. The applicants are mainly researchers from the French Community, but also international, there are also other public bodies such as the Court of Auditors (Central Commission of Nuclear Energy) or private companies.

The alkaline melting method is a technique that allows you to melt the rock sample. Clearly the solid rock previously reduced to a powder state has passed into a liquid state in order to be analysed. MRSA is one of the few labs to use it. The passages are complex and delicate. The technique uses what scientists call streams that are mixed with the sample to lower the melting point. The melting takes place in small crucibles thanks to a thermal (resistive) furnace at 1000°C. At the exit of this oven, we get a pearl. This pearl is then dissolved in an acidified solution. All this is just one of the steps before arriving at a jar containing the solution that will go into a powerful machine, the mass spectrometer, which will carry out its analysis and give the elements found and their percentage.

From archeology to ecology, almost everything can be analyzed. “We are able to analyze materials from aerospace but also meteorites or even ceramics or limestones which are much more basic rocks,” Christophe Cloquet tells us. “Archaeologists often call us. We can analyze environmental samples such as plants. Other champions are sometimes a little more exotic. We recently had scientific colleagues trust us with sheep poop. It’s quite atypical. First we make sure there are no viruses inside, of course. We will not take samples that present biohazards.”

SARM is also a globally recognized player for its catalog of certified reference materials. These 24 materials, including basalt, bauxite and diorite, were prepared and characterized between 1963 and 1994. The raw materials for these certified geochemical materials were sourced from deposits around the world.

The goal is to provide the scientific community with reference materials suitable for geochemical analysis, and necessary to calibrate a device or evaluate a measurement method. SARMs analyze approximately 6,000 samples a year.

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