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The Earth Sciences department hosts a multitude of research facilities and is constantly upgrading, developing and seeking funding or partnerships with industry and other institutions to further enhance our laboratory spaces. 

For powder and separate preparation the department hosts a steel plate jaw crusher and Dickie & Stockler TS-250 pneumatic clamp mill, fitted with carbon steel (250cc) and chrome steel (150cc) milling bowls, rings and pucks. Alternative milling bowls can be used that fit the TS-250, if brought along by the user. 

Decontamination of the instruments is done using clean quartz, or upon request, glass supplied by the user. Please note that you’ll need to bring your own respirator along if you intend to use glass. Both laboratory spaces have extraction hoods placed over the instruments.
The thin section laboratory hosts multiple saws of varying sizes, a Struers Discoplan, flatlap and glass plates, as well as various polishing wheels and tools. The facility currently boasts no backlog and a high quality of work, with products delivered to other institutions and industry on occasion and by request. Training in the facility is also delivered to MSc and PhD candidates, who are expected to complete their own laboratory work.

Milling laboratory, University of the Western Cape. Thin section in polarized light showing garnet, plagioclase and epidote. Cut and polished at the University of the Western Cape; Imaged using the Gigamacro imaging system hosted in the Core Laboratory.

The core laboratory hosts a new Poroperm unit (Gas source - N2) and EPS-A resistivity unit, supplied by Vinci Technologies and acquired through funding from the Upstream Training Trust.

Also hosted by the facility is a Gigamacro imaging system, designed for thin section photography, with a resolution of 50 microns across a section of almost any size. 

The laboratory is supported by two 3KVA UPS units funded by the Strategic Fuel Fund (Embed link on Strategic Fuel Fund , directly wired into the power rails of the facility. 

Students wishing to use the laboratory are encouraged both to make bookings with the laboratory manager and consider applying for funding for UWC-related projects with the Upstream Training Trust.

Proudly funded by The Upstream Training Training Trust and Strategic Fuel Fund


The department’s microscopy laboratory hosts a number of polarized light microscopes, reflected light microscopes, polarized stereo-microscopes, and an imaging and demonstration microscope in the main laboratory. This facility is used primarily for teaching optics and petrography at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

In addition to the main laboratory, the department hosts a research microscopy laboratory, which boasts a universal stage for structural and shock measurements, reflected and transmitted light Leica microscopes, a “low stage” Zeiss plane light microscope with flexible stage lighting for zircon and grain picking, as well as a polarized light stereomicroscope. This facility is also available to external users upon request and booking with the laboratory manager. More detailed imaging can be done using the Gigamacro in the Core laboratory.

Dr Juergen Reinhardt presenting a practical on metamorphic petrology in 2020 to a group of students in the microscopy laboratory

Zircon and grain picking microscope with top-down adjustable LED lighting

The department hosts a dual channel Frantz magnetic separator donated by Mintek in an isolated laboratory with clean, pressurized lab air. The facility is available for booking and use both internally and externally through the laboratory manager.

Laboratory proudly supported by Mintek

The department has both wet and dry preparation spaces, including a variety of fume hoods and extensive glassware. Users are expected to handle their own chemical purchases and waste arrangements through the Faculty office. The space is primarily used for preparation in relation to microfossils and biostratigraphy, as well as staining and mineral separations.

Wet chemistry laboratory, Applied Geology, UWC.

The department hosts a modern Hitachi XMet-8000 handheld XRF and benchtop stand for field programs, quick analysis and core logging. The instrument is primarily used for logging core at the Petroleum Agency of South Africa by MSc and PhD candidates in the petroleum section of Applied Geology, and is available on request and booking with the laboratory manager.

The instrument was acquired through a successful national equipment call and application with the faculty of science at UWC.


The department is focused on digital geology both for geoheritage and delivering virtual field trips to both undergraduate, postgraduate students and external visitors. For this reason, the department hosts several highly advanced imaging systems like the Gigapan as well as an assortment of advanced camera and lens systems both for sample photography and field photography. Image stacking is available for sample photography for the academic community. 

In addition, the department hosts a drone equipped with a gimballed 4K camera and live feed system for outcrop and mine photography. It is possible to fly traverses with the drone in its current configuration. Bookings for photography can be made through Emeritus Professor Jan Van Bever Donker.

The HIVE facility is hosted in a large space with a cinema-style back projection 4k screen featuring live-tracking 3D positioning based on the user or demonstrator. It allows one to manipulate, display and render 3D models for a variety of applications (Digital geology, training, model interpretation with software like Petrel and Leapfrog).

The facility is often used for training by external guests and is available both to other departments and outside users for digital field presentations, training and high-power computing applications. In addition to the main projector, the HIVE boasts a number of modeling computers supported with i7’s and Quadro modeling hardware.

Bookings and enquiries about the facility can be made through the HIVE academic coordinator, Mr Henok Solomon.

The facility was originally opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with a tour given through some of the geology of South Africa by Andrew Connell. Initial funding was supplied by British Petroleum (BP).

 Read more about it here.