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Hertelendi Laboratory of Environmental Studies (HEKAL)
Hosting Legal Entity
University of Debrecen
Egyetem tér 1, Debrecen, PO: 4032 (Hungary)
Bem tér 18/c, Institute for Nuclear Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Debrecen, PO: 4026 (Hungary)
Type Of RI
Coordinating Country
Current Status:
Operational since 1980
Scientific Description
The environmental and climate research is the main task of the group. The information got by the different RIs alone is very important but we get more complex picture about the problems combining the methods. The isotope analytical arsenal of the HE KAL is unique in Hungary, maybe in Europe. It consists of: K-Ar Laboratory Static vacuum noble gas mass spectrometer Fisons VG-5400 (VG5400) Thermo Finnigan Delta plus XP type stable isotope mass spectrometer (IRMS) Counter system for high-precision 14C dating + pre-treatment unit (C-14 Lab) LSC – gamma Laboratory Quadrupole mass spectrometers (QMS) Mobile, high-precision atmospheric CO2 monitoring station (FOCAM) AMS Laboratory.

RI Keywords
Radiocarbon, Noble gases, Mass spectrometry, Stable isotopes, Environmental study
RI Category
Atmospheric Measurement Facilities
Analytical Facilities
In situ Earth Observatories
Nuclear Research Facilities
Solid Earth Observatories, including Seismological Monitoring Stations
Scientific Domain
Physics, Astronomy, Astrophysics and Mathematics
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Biological and Medical Sciences
Chemistry and Material Sciences
C-14 Lab

Convention radiocarbon dating using gas proportional counting system.


Liquid scintillation spectrometry laboratory.

K-Ar Lab

Determination of geological age of rocks and minerals which are suitable for K/Ar dating.

Noble gas lab

Determination of noble gas isotope ratios in rocks, water, gas and other media.


Gas analytical facility using quadrupole mass spectrometers.


Accelerator mass spectrometry laboratory for 14C analyses.


Atmospheric fossil carbon monitoring system with a mobile, field deployable monitoring station.

C-14 dating GPC Laboratory

It is the only internationally acknowledged radiocarbon measurement system. It is a gas filled proportional measurement unit (with nine measurement tubes) with the whole sample preparation laboratory background, which makes possible the preparation of practically every type of sample in an internationally acknowledged level. There are at the present only two other laboratories in the world (one in Heidelberg and the other in Grönningen) measuring on the basis of this principle. Precision of the proportional gas counter serves as etalon in the C-14 dating (if there is proper preparation laboratory background) showed by our excellent results in the five international intercomparisons performed so far. Nowadays, referred and international level articles on archaeology, geology, hydrology or climate research are almost unimaginable without data confirmed by a radiocarbon measurement. There is only one C-14 measurement unit with similar capacity in our region (in Poznan, Poland), however, it measures based on another principle.

Gas Analytical System

The QMS system consists of two portable quadrupole mass spectrometer (Omnistar M200, Pfeiffer Vacuum). These mass spectrometers are able to determine gas mixing ratios in the range of 0-200 atomic mass units. The lowest measurable mixing ratio is 0.1 ppm. The capillary sampling port enables us to inlet the gas sample into the mass spectrometer, while gases dissolved in liquids can be sampled by means a membrane inlet line. The QMS is portable, hence it can be used in the field.

VG 5400 Noble Gas Mass Spectrometer

The VG5400 noble gas mass spectrometer is an all-metal, statically operated, double focused, 90° sector field mass spectrometer with 57 cm extended geometry. The preparation line consists of a water trap, a molecular sieve trap, and two cryo traps. During the sample inlet the water vapour is retained by the water trap, while the other non-condensating gases are moving towards the cryo part. The cryo traps can be cooled down to 8 °K, their temperatures can be controlled by 0.01 °K steps. The empty trap has a polished stainless steel surface that is held at 25 °K allowing to adsorb gases except helium and neon. The other trap is equipped with activated charcoal that is able to adsorb helium and neon at 8 °K as well. At 42 °K helium can be separated from the neon and admitted to the noble gas mass spectrometer. The Nier-type ion source is set for optimal tuning for helium.

Atmospheric fossil CO2 monitoring system

The FOCAM station incorporates many kinds of sampling and measurement equipment in a unique way, with the simultaneous application of which the quantity of the atmospheric carbon-dioxide originating from the combustion of fossil energy resources can be directly measured in the given sampling location. An ULTRAMAT 6F CO2 analyser and a gas preparation and treatment system developed for it serve as the basis of the station together with an atmospheric 14CO2 sampling unit developed in the ATOMKI. The station partially supported by the OTKA was constructed in a way that it can be settled as a mobile unit practically everywhere and it is able to perform samplings and measurements needed for the determination of the fossil CO2 for the given location. The FOCAM station has been operating since the summer 2008 in the inner city of Debrecen as a trial operation.

Stable Isotope Laboratory

The various isotopes of an element have slightly different chemical and physical properties because of their mass differences. For elements of low atomic numbers, these mass differences are large enough for many physical, chemical, and biological processes or reactions to "fractionate" or change the relative proportions of various isotopes. Changes of isotope ratios can provide important information about the underlying processes. Natural isotope fractionation processes change the ratios only to a very small amount therefore very precise, high sensitivity measurements are needed. For the geological and hydrological applications a Thermo Finnigan Delta plus XP type stable isotope mass spectrometer is operated in the lab to study the five most important elements in geochemistry (S, C, H, O, N). We can determine infiltration temperature of water, the origin of sulfate or nitrate contamination of water. The measurement of carbon isotope ratios allows us to measure the presence of iso-sugar mixed in honey.

Beta- and Gamma Spectrometers

Two ultra low background liquid scintillation spectrometers (a TriCarb 3170 TR/SL and a Quantulus 1220) and two ultra low background gamma spectrometers (with HPGe detectors) are the basic instruments of the laboratory, and they are top instruments in their fields. The whole infrastructure of the laboratory was created for the high sensitivity beta activity measurements (shielded laboratory in the basement with overpressurised and ventilated air treatment, air conditioning and special treatment and cleaning precsriptions). Instruments are able to measure gamma activities of natural and artificial level and origin and 3H, 14C, 36Cl, 90Sr, 99Tc and other beta emitter isotopes. All these are accompanied by properly equipped chemistry department for sample preparation. The whole sample treatment, measurement and the laboratory have had an ISO 9001/2000 certificate since 2000.

C-14 dating AMS Laboratory

Laboratory of accelerator mass spectrometry for C-14 measurements and dating.

K-Ar Laboratory

Determination of geological age of rocks and minerals which are suitable for K/Ar dating. Plutonic, volcanic and metamorphic rocks (including low-and very low-grade metamorphics),diagenetic and mineralization processes,as well as tectonism and palaeogeographic problems can be studied by this method.

Date of last update: 08/03/2017
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