Geochemist's Workbench Software Program Used Worldwide

Posted on 08.23.2015

A computer software program written by Professor Craig Bethke and his research team has taken the geochemistry field by storm.

The Geochemist's Workbench, which has been described as "Mathematica for geochemists," makes quick work of chores such as balancing reactions, calculating equilibrium constants, constructing Eh/Ph diagrams, and tracing even very complicated reaction processes. The software works graphically, so users can solve problems on their PCs and then paste the resulting diagrams directly into their documents. The latest release, version 3.2, also solves microbiological problems.

"We needed this software to do our own work," says Bethke, who studies geochemical questions concerning remediation of contaminated groundwater, safety of injection wells, effects of microbes on groundwater quality, and the mobility of heavy metals in acid mine drainage, among other things. "By making the software available to others we could hire professional programmers to continue to develop and refine it."

The program is clearly filling a strong need. Researchers, in countries as diverse as Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Israel, India, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and even Slovenia, have licensed the software. The program is applied extensively in the energy, mineral and environmental industries. Bethke is particularly gratified that many university departments use the software for teaching subjects such as environmental science, "green chemistry" and geology.

"People are using the software for applications we never even imagined, like designing longer-lasting roadways," says Bethke.

The Geochemist's Workbench also is being adopted as the standard software at most national labs, such as Sandia and Lawrence Livermore, as well as government agencies such as the USGS and EPA.

The first line of Geochemist's Workbench was written in 1978 when Bethke was a undergraduate student. The completed program was first made available in 1991. It has been updated periodically ever since.