Idaho National Laboratory Biological Systems

INL Biological Systems Facilities

State-of-the-art laboratory facilities support research in a wide variety of project areas.

The Biological Systems department is part of the Energy and Environment directorate at the INL. Multidisciplinary research performed by the department encompasses the areas of priority pathogen detection, extremophile biology and genomics, biohydrometallurgy, biomass conversion, coal bioprocessing, biodegradation/bioremediation, microbially-induced corrosion, biofiltration, microbially-enhanced oil recovery, subsurface microbiology, and modeling and study of contaminant transport at contaminated sites within the INL boundaries and across the DOE complex.

The Biological Systems department is housed in 15 laboratories with a total of 12,000 sq. ft. at the INL Research Center in the city of Idaho Falls.  It includes two laboratory modules designed for work at the BSL2 level, 2,000 sq. ft. of space for pilot scale testing and development, and 1,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse space.  These laboratories contain all essential microbiological, molecular biological, analytical equipment and instrumentation. 

Molecular Biology and Genomics:

High throughput microbial genome sequencing is supported by an ABI Prism 3730 DNA Analyzer.  Several real-time PCR instruments (Idaho Technology R.A.P.I.D.™ , ABI 7000, ABI7900, and Corbett Research RotorGene) are available.  A microarray system consisting of the Perkin Elmer ScanArray Express HT scanner with four lasers (Red HeNe 633 nm, Green IcNc 543 nm, Yellow HeNe 594 nm, and Blue Ar 488/514 nm) and the SpotArray 24 Microarray Printing System is installed in a modular Class 100 clean room.

Proteomics and Metabolomics:

Our proteomics capabilities are supported by liquid chromatography instruments (DIONEX LC Packings Ultimate and VISION WORKSTATION) and an Applied Biosystems QSTAR hybrid triple quadrupole-time of flight mass spectrometer.  The mass spectrometer is capable of mass analysis in MS mode up to a m/z of 6000 with 5 ppm accuracy.  The instrument can also be operated in MS-MS mode for fully automated de novo peptide sequencing. 


INL researchers are supported by an Apple Xserve cluster (40x2.66GHz Intel Woodcrest processor element, 80 Gb distributed memory, 3.44 TB disk capacity) with the inQuiry package from BioTeam.  Numerous custom, in-house software applications provide genomics and proteomics data management and analysis.  Proteomics applications have their own dedicated server.

Analytical Equipment:


Numerous stereo and compound microscopes, epifluorescence microscopes (Olympus BX51, Nikon Eclipse E600, and Zeiss Axiomat) are available in the department, plus a confocal scanning microscope equipped with argon and HeNe lasers (Nikon PCM 2000).  Cryo-TEM capability is provided by a Phillips EM420 electron microscope upgraded with a Gatan Ultrascan 4000 high resolution digital camera, Gatan CT3500/TAC100/Model 655 cryogenic sample accessories, and an FEI Vitrobot Mark IV cryo-plunge station. 


High pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) systems are available for the determinations of monosaccharides, organic acids, and other fermentation products in complex media by refractive index and multi-wavelength UV detection. Gas chromatographs (GC) from HP and Shimadzu permit the detection of various permanent gases, volatile organic compounds and chlorinated solvents by thermal conductivity (TCD), flame ionization (FID), and electron capture (ECD) detection.

Biomass Cultivation and Harvest:

Small and intermediate-scale continuous centrifugation (Sorvall SS-34/KSB and Pennwalt AS16) equipment is available for the separation of solids in complex media.  Fermenters ranging from 0.5 to 35 liters provide highly controlled systems for cultivation of native and recombinant microorganisms.  Sterilize-in-place fermentation is performed with a New Brunswick BioFlo 4500 system.

Other Research Departments:

Other departments at the IRC work closely with Biological Systems to provide access and services for near-surface analysis, including atomic force microscopy, electrochemistry (EG&G multiplexed potentiostat, SRET), environmental scanning electron microscopy (Philips ESEM), confocal scanning laser microscopy (Nikon PCM 2000), mass spectrometry, NMR, ICP, SEM/STEM, Auger and ESCA spectroscopy, electron probe micro-analysis (JEOL SuperProbe with WDS and EDS detection capability), liquid scintillation counting (Perkin Elmer TriCarb3170TR/SL), and a wide array of techniques for nondestructive analysis of materials.

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Department of energy

DOE Office of Nuclear Energy
DOE-Idaho Office