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Images: Analyzing Ancient Sediments at Warp Speed

The new X-ray fluorescence core scanner simultaneously captures digital photographs and X-ray images of a core sample while detecting the presence of any of 80 chemical elements?-in a matter of hours and without breaking the core's surface. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst)

Geologist Liviu Giosan examines the data output from the new X-ray fluorescence (XRF) core scanner (behind him) at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The XRF was built by Cox Analytical Systems of Sweden and purchased by WHOI with funding from the Major Research Instrumentation grant program of the National Science Foundation. It is the first and only XRF core scanner in the United States, and just one of five similar devices in the world. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)

Jessica Tierney, a WHOI research assistant, aligns a sediment core for examination in the XRF scanner. Tierney needed three months in the lab to develop a profile of a core from Peru that she was studying; with the XRF, she was able to collect the same data?plus X-ray images?in three days. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)

An XRF scan of a sediment core from the Cariaco Basin (off Venezuela) combines observations from all three instrument sensors. The X-ray image (gray and black) reveals sedimentary layers that are not otherwise visible in a standard photograph (brown). The concentration of titanium, overlaid in yellow, indicates past fluctuations in atmospheric moisture and dust in the region. (Courtesy of Liviu Giosan, WHOI)

To study core samples the traditional way, scientists must cut them down the middle and meticulously dissect them. It is a time- and labor-intensive process that gradually destroys unique?and not easily replaceable?cores. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)