Environmental Magnetism



Recent projects

2019 - 2024: Convention of cooperation with the Wallonia Heritage Agency  "Development of archaeomagnetic research in Wallonia".

2018 - 2022: COST Action CA17131: "The Soil Science & Archaeo-Geophysics Alliance: going beyond prospection."

2017 - 2020: EMPIR joint research project: "MagNaStand" for supporting the  development of new ISO standards for magnetic nanoparticles and products containing magnetic nanoparticles.

2014 - 2018: COST Action TD1402  "Multifunctional Nanoparticles for Magnetic Hyperthermia and Indirect Radiation Therapy (RADIOMAG)." Project website:

2014 - 2018: "Archaeomagnetic Network for the Rescue of Cultural Heritage in Northern Africa (RAPSCA)." supported by BELSPO


Palaeo- and Archaeomagnetism is the study of geomagnetic field variations during geological and archaeological periods, respectively. Rocks, sediments and baked material acquire a magnetisation during their formation or during cooling from high temperatures. This magnetisation lasts over millions of years (remanent magnetisation) and is aligned parallel to the ambient magnetic field at the time of acquisition.

Rocks, sediments and baked materials memorise direction and intensity of the Earth’s past magnetic field. Palaeo- and archaeomagnetic measurements are used for:

  • Dating of archaeological sites
  • Dating of geological sequences (Magnetostratigraphy)
  • Reconstruction of continental and local tectonic movements
  • Reconstruction of the Earth's past magnetic field and its analysis, e.g. during geomagnetic polarity reversals

Iron resides amongst the most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust and forms in combination with oxygen and sulphur magnetic minerals which are omnipresent in our environment. Environmental processes control type, size and form of magnetic minerals. Magnetic property measurements can be hence used for environmental characterisation such as for instance:

  • Reconstructions of the climate of the past (past global change)
  • Pollution monitoring (atmospheric, soil, aquatic)
  • Characterisation of ecosystems (lakes, magnetic bacteria, soils)
  • Characterisation of archaeological environments
  • Lithostratigraphy of geological sequences

Main activities



  • Possible relations between the geomagnetic field and climate
  • Secular variation of the geomagnetic field, polartiy changes and geomagnetic excursions
  • Magnetic mineral formation in soils and soil pollution
  • Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions
  • Magnetisation processes in sediments
  • New: Magnetic properties of nanoparticle suspensions for for biomedical applications such as magnetic hyperthermia


The division houses the Environmental Magnetism Laboratory which is equipped with following measurement instrumentation and facilities:

  • Magnetometer MPMS 3 from Quantum Design (hysteresis, frequency dependence of magnetic susceptibility, remanent magnetisation); temperature range: 1.8 -- 400 K (-271.35 -- +126.85 °C); field range ± 7 T; frequency range 0.1 Hz -- 1 kHz
  • Oven MMTD80A (Magnetic Measurements Ltd.) for themal demagnetisation and palaeointensity determination 
  • Triaxial cryogenic magnetometer (2G Enterprises) with DC SQUIDS and sample access of 7.6 cm. The magnetometer is equipped with a 4 K PT405 pulse tube cryorefrigerator (Cryomech), an in-line three-axial alternating field demagnetiser and two sample handler systems (automated / manual)
  • Rotating Magnetometer for isothermal magnetisation curves (hysteresis, backfield, remanence acquisition)
  • KappaBridge KLY-4S, (AGICO), for magnetic susceptibility measurements between -196 and +700 °C in different alternating current fields
  • MS3 susceptibility meter (Bartington) with sensors for dual frequency, drill cores and surface measurements in the field
  • SM-400 susceptibility meter (ZHinstruments) for measuring depth profiles of soil susceptibility in the field
  • Impulse magnetiser unit (2G Enterprises) up to 2.7 T
  • AccuPyc II 1340 (Micromeritics) pycnometer for density and porosity estimations
  • Soil coring system (Humax) and other tools for field work
  • Chemical laboratory 
  • Workshop for sample preparation



Dr. Simo Spassov (Team leader)
Tel. : +32-(0)60 39 54 98
Fax : +32-(0)60 39 54 23
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Dr. Souad Ech-chakrouni
Tel. : +32-(0)60 39 54 81
Fax : +32-(0)60 39 54 23
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Prof. em. Jozef Hus
Tel. : +32-(0)60 39 54 82
Fax : +32-(0)60 39 54 23
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