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Although website hosting isn’t too expensive, and I don’t pay myself for the time I enthusiastically spend here updating and improving the site (I view this as “fun” and not as “work”), there are actual significant monetary costs that unfortunately limit what I’m ultimately able to accomplish here.

While acquiring new samples to feature does entail some financial outlay, most of the expense comes from the cost of preparing thin sections and the cost of instrument time to do analytical work. To give you an idea of some of these expenses, a single polished thin section comes in at a bit under $40 to make, and to examine it with the electron microprobe currently costs a bit under $17/hr (this is actually a very reasonable price… some labs charge hundreds of dollar per hour to use their equipment!) To give you an idea of the time involved, a basic five element X-ray map takes around 4 hours; every additional five element set takes an additional 4 hours, and three sets (15 elements in total) usually offers a great snapshot of the mineralogical distributions of key major and minor elements in a sample. Needless to say, add all this up and it can get quite expensive:


the process (using sample FKM-1 as an example) the cost
TOTAL (from a single rock specimen to the derived thin section’s set of cool images & analyses featured here) = ~$341
specimen acquisition (from $0 [donated/self-collected] to rarely >$50 for rarer material;
most specimens cost under $20; the rock for FKM-1 cost $25)
billet preparation (cutting to size, grinding, mounting in epoxy if necessary;
I do this work myself so the cost is ostensibly $0, but technically I should add in the cost of consumables)
professionally prepared polished thin section $39
EPMA instrument cost for ~25 spot analyses (~4.5 hrs instrument time, including non-analysis time;
the operator cost is $0 [I do this work myself])
EPMA instrument cost for 15 element set of X-ray maps (~12 hrs instrument time;
the operator cost is $0 [X-ray mapping is automated])


Although I’ve made a few X-ray maps already (see the electron microscopy tab), typically I’ll try to save money by concentrating on individual spot analyses. Doing individual analyses is both more cost-effective (it takes anywhere from about two to five hours to examine a single thin section, depending on how complex it is), and provides the quantitative data that ends up in the mineral composition tables. In any case, much of this sample preparation and analytical cost has so far been largely covered by generous contributions from my university research group’s discretionary funding (although in 2016, I had to cover the full cost myself of having 40 thin sections made… ouch!). But since university budgets in recent years have gotten considerably tighter, I can’t necessarily rely on this funding going forward.

I hope to add a lot of new and exciting content in the future (for example, I’d love to add multi-element X-ray maps of all the featured thin sections, and additionally some of the samples might be interesting for ICP-MS trace element or isotopic work). But progress in these directions will depend largely on what funding I can raise.  And in the most optimistic case scenario, any money raised over and above what I need to accomplish these and other ongoing website goals will go to another ancillary good cause: a bit of extra food & shelter money for yours truly… 🙂

For your peace of mind, donations are handled securely through PayPal (clicking “Donate Now” will take you to their own checkout portal; I’ll never see your credit card number or any of your private banking information), and can be done either via a PayPal account (if you have one), a credit card or a debit card. Depending on user feedback, I may try to offer other donation options in the future. NOTE: Although the missions of this website are education and scientific advancement, is at present not an IRS-recognized tax-exempt organization, so unfortunately your donations are currently not tax-deductible.

Thank you, and I appreciate your support!

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