Biomarkers for Environmental and Climate Science (BECS) is a research group led by Professor Jaime L. Toney. The group was established in March 2013 following the opening of the current facility in June 2009.

Professor Geoffrey Eglinton FRS (1927-2016), who opened the facility, was one of the original founders in the field with other natural product chemists working in the Department of Chemistry in the 1950s and 1960s. The continued research at BECS represents the return of organic geochemistry to the university after a 40-year absence.

Find out more About Biomarkers here.

The Preparation Laboratory

The laboratory employs the latest technology, including a state-of-the-art wet chemistry laboratory and a gas chromatography clean laboratory. The wet chemistry laboratory is equipped with the latest technology to facilitate the extraction of lipid biomarkers and their separation into different compound classes and includes individual work stations, including individual hoods, bench-top space, and refrigerators. This provides maximum efficiency for students and researchers in the lab and allows for maximum speed, reproducibility and lipid yields.


The BECS research group houses a wide range of high quality research facilities and equipment within the Molema Building. These facilities are essential in the support of our research needs but can also be made available to external organisations. Any enquires regarding our facilities should be directed to the BECS technician and lab manager Mr Mohammad Ali Salik.

Agilent GCMS (5977A MSD/7890B GC System)

BECS Agilent instrumentGas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is a hybrid analytical technique that couples the separation capabilities of GC with the detection properties of MS to provide a higher efficiency of sample analyses. While GC can separate volatile components in a sample, MS helps fragment the components and identify them based on their mass.

GC-MS provides enhanced sample identification, higher sensitivity, an increased range of analysable samples, and faster results, which enable a whole new range of applications for GC-MS in several areas.

The Agilent 5977A MSD/7890B GC system delivers a higher level of performance and productivity with:

  • The industry's highest S/N and lowest IDL
  • The new powerful MassHunter Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis software
  • Eco-friendly features that save energy and time
  • Integrated Intelligence to support methods development and system optimization
  • Enhanced communication between the GC and MSD for more efficient and safer operation

Agilent GC-FID (7890B GC System)

Agilent GC-FID

Gas chromatography (GC) is used to separate and detect small molecular weight compounds in the gas phase. A GC is popular for environmental monitoring and industrial applications because it is very reliable and can be run nearly continuously.

A GC is typically used in applications where small, volatile molecules are detected and with non-aqueous solutions. Flame-ionization detection (FID) is a good general detector for organic compounds in GC that detects the amount of carbon in a sample. FID is unaffected by non-combustible gases and water.

The 7890B Gas Chromatograph (GC) System is the world’s most widely used GC system. It features accurate temperature controls and precise injection systems, plus enhanced Electronic Pneumatic Control (EPC) modules for the best retention times.

Elementar GC-IRMS (GC5)

BECS Elementar instrument

Compound specific isotope analysis provides a deep level insight into many geochemical and forensic applications and is considered a crucial technique for many laboratories. The GC5 offers exceptional sensitivity for low concentration analytes whilst maintaining chromatographic integrity of sample peaks during compound conversion.

The GC5 system is connected to the Agilent 7890B GC system to create the highest performance GC-IRMS system for research.

We offer measurement of δ13C and δ2H in compounds separated by capillary chromatography. The GC5 Furnace system offers high temperature for δ2H pyrolysis of compounds at 1450 °C.

LC/MS Agilent LC-QQQ 6420 system with 1260 Infinity HPLC

LCMS photo

The Agilent 6420 Triple Quadrupole LC/MS delivers excellent sensitivity for routine analysis with performance specifications in Signal-to-Noise ratio (S/N) and Instrument Detection Limit (IDL). IDL is a rigorous, statistically based metric that indicates practical sensitivity performance of your quantitative assays. The 6420 Triple Quadrupole LC/MS achieves sensitivity and resolution specifications with autotune.

The 1260 Infinity LC System is a robust high performance liquid chromatography instrument that offers the widest choice of modules for analytical HPLC and entry-level UHPLC. It delivers the performance, reliability, and robustness you need for highest confidence in your daily results.

The LC/MS is used to analyse compounds that are not amenable to GC analysis. This includes novel tetraether compounds, produced by archaea and bacteria, which have potential for organic geochemical studies.

Milestone ETHOS LEAN compact microwave digestion system


Microwave Digestion System

Microwave sample preparation is the technology of choice for trace and ultra-trace metals analysis. High temperature, closed vessel, acid digestion prepares samples in less time than traditional methods (minutes rather than hours), uses less acid, and retains even volatile elements. With the Milestone series of microwave digestion systems, it is possible to easily digest even the toughest organic or inorganic sample matrix, safely processing more samples in less time with superior results. The unique design and specialised accessories give the user a completely integrated system for a broad range of applications such as closed vessel digestion, open vessel digestion, fusion, and protein hydrolysis.

The ETHOS LEAN has been specifically designed to provide high-quality closed-vessel acid digestion for laboratories. The compact and economical  system is supplied with a 14 place medium pressure rotor with easy handling. Digestion is controlled via EasyTEMP infrared sensor that monitors the temperature in each vessel ensuring complete digestion.

The system features reliable hardware, made completely of stainless steel with a corrosion-resistant coating to ensure long durability. An intuitive, icon-driven user interface is included with hundreds of preloaded methods with advanced reaction control that ensures high digestion quality.

Dionex ASE 350 Accelerated Solvent Extractor

BECS Accelerated Solvent Extractor

Automate extraction, filtration and clean-up of compounds from solid and semisolid samples in minutes using the automated Thermo Scientific™ Dionex™ ASE™ 350 Accelerated Solvent Extractor.

This system allows unattended extraction of up to 24 samples and uses 50 to 90% less solvent compared to other methods. The chemically inert pathway supports acid and alkaline sample matrices and solvents.

Flexible, easy-to-operate and cost-effective, the Dionex ASE 350 allows a high-throughput of sample for analysis and it can be used for a wide variety of applications.

Freezone Benchtop Freeze Dryer 2.5L capacity, -50° C

Freeze dryer photo

Our new FreeZone 2.5L Benchtop Freeze Dryer is designed for lyophilizing light-to-moderate sample loads. The compact design is ideal for labs and the New Lyo-Works™ OS provides flexibility and convenience in an easy-to-use, touch screen display. Samples are protected with remote notification and data recording.

The upright stainless steel collector coil holds 2.5 liters of ice before defrosting. A single 1/3 hp HCFC/CFC-free refrigeration system cools the collector to -50° C (-58° F), suitable for aqueous samples.

Current members of BECS

Former members of BECS