Laboratory & Services

IOSI laboratory offers research support to oil sands projects and student training, from standard to advanced techniques at the molecular level for fundamental research.

The detailed list of equipment is shown below or can be downloaded as a single pdf file here. Please contact IOSI Laboratory Manager Lisa Brandt at on the status and accessibility of the equipment.

The laboratory services are free to IOSI researchers (subject to selected consumables and materials expenses). Analyses for external customers are performed for a fee.  Please contact IOSI Laboratory Manager Lisa Brandt at to receive access to the facilities or to request a quote. UofA investigators: please submit a New User registration form.


Atomic force microscope

High-resolution imaging of topology of materials in air and liquids media; up to atomic resolution; ambient conditions. Interactions of bitumen components and minerals substrates. Modules: contact and tapping. Bruker Innova.

Brewster angle microscope

With Langmuir trough (NIMA). Visualization of monolayer and films at the air/liquid interface to understand both the structure and flow behavior of materials. Field of view  3600 µm x 4000µm; image resolution 12 µm. Nanofilm, EP3.

Confocal fluorescence microscope

Visualization, exploration, and analysis of multi-channel high-performance 3D fluorescence imaging with 3 excitation lasers and 4 spectral emissions bands. Attached to the confocal is the MMI Optical Tweezer, which combines the capabilities of laser technology and microscopy for contact-free microscopic particles manipulations. Quorum Technologies.

Confocal scanning microscope

High acquisition speed (7.5 fps, high-speed color mode). True color confocal microscopy. High resolution (Lateral resolution 0.16 um). Zeiss Axio CSM 700.

FTIR microscope

FTIR Microscope: Transmission, Reflection, ATR , FTIR Mapping. Thermo.

Inverted microscope

Zeiss Axiovert200M. Installed objectives: 10x, 20x, and 40x. Captures still images or monochrome 15fps / color 7.5fps video using the integrated Basler A102FC color imaging camera. Used for the examination of samples in culture flasks, Petri dishes, microtiter plates, etc. in transmitted and reflected light.  The microscope can also be used for fluorescence microscopy with a range of filters available.


(Electro) acoustic spectrometer

Measures acoustic attenuation spectrum to determine particle size distribution. Size range: 0.005-1000 µm. Uses electroacoustic technique to determine zeta-potential. Applications in coagulation and flocculation of concentrated fluid systems ( with particle concentration up to 50 vol%). DT-1200, Dispersion Technology.


Non-contact , non-destructive optical technique. Spectroscopic ellipsometry(wave length range: 210 nm to 900 nm). Measures the change in polarization of light beam upon reflection from a sample. Determines film thickness and refractive index. Sopra.

Fluorescence spectrophotometer

Wavelength 190-1100 nm. Liquid  sample measurement (FEEM and Synchronous Fluorescence). Solid sample measurement. Optical Fiber Accessory for in-situ measurement. Varian Cary Eclipse.

FTIR spectrometer

Transmission, variable angle  reflection,  single and multibounce ATR, diffuse reflection (DRIFTs), photoelastic modulator (PEM): polarization modulation-infrared reflection-adsorption spectroscopy (PM-IRRAS), Nicolet 6700.

Laser diffraction

Mastersizer 3000. Particle size distribution of suspensions and emulsions in aqueous and non-aqueous media. Size range: 10 nm – 3.5 mm. Volume or number distribution. Malvern.

Light scattering

Dynamic DLS: intensity fluctuation of scattered light; particle size distribution; hydrodynamic radius; diffusion coefficient. Static SLS: light intensity at variable angles; polymer molecular weight; radius of gyration; second virial coefficient. ALV/CGS-3 Goniometer.

UV-vis spectrometer

Wavelength range: 190-1100 nm, transmission, optical fiber for in-situ measurements, liquid/film, Varian Cary 50.


Accelerated solvent extraction

A technique similar to traditional Soxhlet or sonication but at high pressure and temperature. Extraction of compounds from solid and semi-solid samples quickly with small solvent volume. Cell size: 100 mL. Operation pressure: up to 1500 psi. Operation temperature: up to 200 °C. Diones ASE 300.

Centrifuge (1)

Swinging-bucket and fixed-angle rotors provide maximum separation forces in excess of 100,000 x g at speeds up to 30,000 rpm. 4.0 L max capacity. Temperature range: -20 ° C to +40 °C. Avanti J-30I, Beckman Coulter.

Centrifuge (2)

Eppendorf Centrifuge 5430. Can handle 50ml/15ml/5ml sample sizes. Max RCF : 7197 for F-35-6-60 Rotor. Max RPM : 7830 for F-35-6-60 rotor. Max RCF : 20817 for FA-45-30-11 Rotor. Max RPM : 14000 for FA-45-30-11 Rotor.

Centrifuge (3)

Eppendorf Centrifuge 5424. Small sample sizes only, 5ml Max. Max RCF : 21130. Max RPM : 15000.

Environmental chamber

Benchtop test chamber provides steady-state temperature and humidity environmental testing/treatment. Working volume: 1.3 cu ft. Temperature range: 5 °C to 94 °C. 10% to 98% relative humidity. Associated Environmental Systems.

Filter press filtration

Batch-operation, fixed-volume equipment that separates liquids and solids using pressure filtration (e.g., in oil sands tailings dewatering). A slurry is pumped into the filter press and dewatered under pressure. Air diaphragm pump: 620 kPa; chamber volume: 280 mL with cake thickness of 2.5 cm; total filter area is 220 mL; filter cloth:15 μm mesh polypropylene; feed flow rate adjustable up to 15.7 L/min. SERFILCO 0.02-7PPHM Lab Press.

Glove box workstation

Storage and handling air/water sensitive materials and experiment. Argon atmosphere. Attainable purity level: H2O < 1 ppm, O2< 1 ppm. UNIlabPlus,  MBRAUN.

Pressure filtration unit

Pressure range: 1- 6 bar. Compressed air. Millipore filter diameter 142 mm. Feed: ~ 500 g treated MFT. EMD Millipore.


Allows determining, independent of the operator, the sedimentation rate of particulate solid suspensions in liquids with flocculants. Five transparent tubes with rubber stoppers fixed in a rotated frame for homogenization. Measurement of the settlement rate of the water-suspension interface is automatically made in all the columns by means of a video camera attached to a laptop. Example application: evaluation of performance of flocculants for oil sands tailings treatment.  Cetten Instruments.

Numerical bench-scale separation and preparation equipment for extraction, minerals separation, tailings treatment, asphaltenes separation, bitumen quality, chemical reactions, etc.

Miscellaneous Analyses

Capillary suction timer

A simple and precise measure of the rate at which water is released from a sludge matrix. Capillary suction time (CST) of sludge with 5 multi-radii heads. Studying filterability of sludge and evaluating the effects of chemicals and process conditions of sludge treatment. Example application: oil sands tailings treatment; wastewater treatment. Triton Electronics.

Coulometric titrator

Uses coulometric titration to determine trace amounts of water in a sample. Detection range: 10 ppm to 5.0 wt%. Example application: water content in crude oil, bitumen or emulsions. Karl Fischer Coulometric Titrator (C10S Mettler Toledo).

Force tensiometer

Based on the precise measurement of the force which occurs when wetting a measuring probe or a solid sample. Surface tension and interfacial tension using the ring, plate and rod method. Contact angle and surface free energy of solids, powders or fiber bundles. Sedimentation behavior of dispersions in aqueous and non-aqueous media. Density of liquids and solids. KrüssK100.

Gas chromatograph + autosampler

Identification of components in mixture for both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Breakthrough Capillary Flow Technology enables leak-free in-oven connections, enhances productivity and data integrity via backflushingand offers versatile, robust solutions for complex GC analyses. Low Thermal Mass (LTM) technology provides direct rapid heating and cooling of capillary columns for extremely fast analytical cycle times and higher productivity. Temperature range: 50 to 450 °C. Detectors: FID, NCD. Agilent 7890A GC.

Gas chromatograph + mass spectrometer

Combines the features of gas-chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify different substances within a test sample. Detectors: FID and Single Quadrupole MS. Oven temperature: up to 450 °C with ramp rate of 0.1 – 120 °C/min. MS: Source: DuraBrite. Mass range: 1 to 1050 amu. Trace GC Ultra coupling DSQ II Single Quadrupole MS, ThermoFisher.

Gravimetric analyzer

A microbalance coupled to two vapour generators to provide controlled solvent atmospheres.
Measurement of isotherms and the corresponding kinetics of sorption and desorption for set pressure or partial pressure steps at different temperature. Sample loading range: 50 mg – 2.0 g. Temperature range: 5 – 400 °C. Pressure range: 0.1 – 2.0 MPa. IGA, Hiden Isochema.

High performance liquid chromatograph

Detector: UV-Vis (190-950 nm). Quaternary pump. Operating pressure:  up to 40 MPa. Injection volume ranges from 0.01 μLto 2000 μLwith a precision levels of < 0.5 % RSD. HPLC 1200 (Agilent). Conditional availability, contact Lab manager.

Interfacial shear rheometer

Measurement of the viscoelastic properties of film at fluid interfaces (air/liquid and liquid/liquid). Viscoelastic properties and surface pressure can be measured simultaneously. KSV.

Isothermal titration calorimetry

Direct measurement of the heat (precision : ± 100 nW) that is either released or absorbed during an interaction process. Characterization of a wide range of molecular interactions, chemical kinetics, and thermodynamic parameters such as binding constants, reaction stoichiometry, enthalpy and entropy in aqueous and non-aqueous media. Temperature: 15 – 150  °C. Example application: asphaltenes aggregation in solution; interaction of polymers and mineral solids. TAM III, TA Instruments.

Mass spectrometer

Multi-component, multi-stream off-gas analysis by mass spectrometry. Measure the concentration of gases and organic vapors in real time quantitatively. Triple filter quadrupole mass spectrometer. Mass range: 1- 200 amu. Detection limit: > 10 ppb. Hiden Analytical.

Microbalance with dissipation

Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation. A real time technique with simultaneously measuring the changes in the resonant frequency related to the mass/thickness of the film in contact with the surface and energy dissipation associated with the rheological properties of the adsorbed film, induced by adsorption/desorption processes or by structural changes produced within the thin film. 4- sensor chambers system. Test volume: ~ 40 µL; Normal mass sensitivity: 1.8 ng/sq. cm; Normal dissipation sensitive: 0.1 x10-6.  Example application: interactions of biomolecules, polymers, surfactants, and nanoparticles at the liquid-solid interface. Q- Sense Analyzer E4, BiolinScientific.

Organic elemental analyzer

Determines the percentages of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur and oxygen of organic compounds based on combustion. Detector: TCD. Detection range (absolute mass): C: 0-7 mg (or 100%); O: 0-2 mg; N: 0-2 mg (or 100%) H: 0-1 mg (or 100%); S: 0-2 mg (or 100%). Detection limit: < 100 ppm. Standard deviation: < 0.1% abs. Example application: organic content in oil sands solids. Flash 2000, Thermo.

Particle track

Tracks real-time changes in floc density, floc size and morphology directly in the process. Characterizes flocs and their constituents from 0.5 μmto 1mm. Maximum sample concentration: up to 30 wt% solids in aqueous and non-aqueous media. FBRM G400 (Mettler Toledo).

Rotational rheometer

Samples are loaded between two plates, or other similar geometry such as cone and plate or alternatively a cup and bob system. Applying a torque to the top plate exerts a rotational shear stress on the material and the resulting strain or strain rate (shear rate) is measured. Torque range:  10 nNm to 200 mNm. (Viscometry); 5.0nNm to 200mNm. (Oscillation). Temperature range: -30 to 200 °C. Wide variety of measurement for rheological characterization of complex fluids and soft solids, including dispersions, emulsions, polymer and surfactant solutions, pastes and gels. Netzsch.

Rheometer (Brookfield)

The Brookfield RVDV-III Ultra Rheometer measures fluid parameters of shear stress and viscosity at given shear rates.  This rheometer features the Small Sample Adapter and two spindles (bob in fixed cup with samples volumes of 3 and 8mL) capable of measurements from 0.1-12,500 Pa-s.  Temperature is adjustable between -10C and 80C.

Simulated distillation

Simdist is a gas-chrometography based method to determine the boiling range distribution of petroleum products, fractions, lube oil and, crude oil. Boiling point range: 175 – 750°C (with ASTM D 7169). Example application: boiling points distribution of bitumen and bitumen- derived products. GC Varian 450, Agilent.

Thermogravimetric analysis

Measures the amount and rate of change in the weight of a material as a function of temperature or time in a controlled atmosphere. Temperature: RT to 1100°C. Mass of samples: 5 – 50 mg. Resolution of microbalance: 0.1 µg. Example application: characterization of materials that exhibit weight loss or gain due to decomposition, oxidation, or dehydration. ThermoCahn 400.

Total organic carbon analyzer

Uses the 680 °C combustion catalytic oxidation method to determine the amount of carbon in aqueous solutions. Measurement: Total Carbon; Inorganic Carbon; Total Organic carbon; Non-Purgeable Organic Carbon; Purgeable Organic Carbon. Detection limit: 0.5 ppbw to 3000 ppmw. SHIMADZU.