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Centre for Trace Element Analysis

The Centre for Trace Element Analysis, hosted by the Department of Geology, specialises in the analysis of trace elements and their isotopes for wide-ranging applications in the earth, environmental, climate, planetary, archaeological and biomedical sciences.

Projects as diverse as past and present climate change, to the migration practices of prehistoric humans, to cell-transfer and metabolism in the human body can be investigated using these elemental and isotopic systems.

The Centre’s instrumentation consists of a multiple-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICPMS) equipped with high-resolution capabilities for high-precision isotopic analysis, a sector-field ICP-MS and quadrupole ICP-MS primarily for elemental composition analysis, and a supporting excimer laser ablation systems for use on either machine.

A ‘Class 10’ (ISO 4) ultra-clean laboratory suite supports sample preparation activities at the Centre.

See the range of research supported by the Centre.  

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Facilities

The Centre’s instrumentation consists of a multiple-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICPMS) equipped with high-resolution capabilities for high-precision isotopic analysis, a quadrupole ICP-MS primarily for elemental composition analysis, and two supporting laser ablation systems for use on either machine.

A ‘Class 10’ (ISO 4) ultra-clean laboratory supports sample preparation activities at the Centre.

Mass spectrometry

The MC-ICPMS and Q-ICPMS instruments are housed in two separate Class 10,000 (ISO 7) mass spectrometry laboratories that are continuously supplied with HEPA-filtered air. The MC-ICPMS laboratory also has climate control to stabilize the room environment to within ±0.5° C and prevent drift in instrument performance.

Multiple Collector-Inductively Coupled plasma Mass Spectrometry

Instrument Model: Nu Instruments Nu Plasma-HR MC-ICPMS

MC-ICPMS allows for the precise isotopic analysis of the metal isotope systems. Our Nu Plasma-HR instrument is equipped with:

  • Twelve Faraday detectors for the simultaneous data collection of up to twelve ion beams,
  • Multiple ion counting for the simultaneous detection of an additional three low-level ion beams,
  • Zoom optics to allow for the variable dispersion between different masses
  • Two modes of high-resolution in addition to the standard low-resolution configuration
  • ‘Dry plasma’ sample introduction by coupling to a DSN-100 or APEX desolvation nebulizer for solution analysis or a laser ablation system for solid sampling in situ analysis
  • ‘Wet plasma’ sample introduction

Inductively-Coupled-Plasma Mass Spectrometer

Instrument Model: Agilent 7500 cs/ce Quadrupole ICP-MS

Q-ICP-MS allows for the analysis of elemental composition in a wide range of materials.

The Agilent 7500cs system is equipped with a dual hydrogen reaction/helium collision cell to reduce/eliminate interferences. This allows the broadest range of elements to be analyzed using a single detector after quadrupole mass selection. Data can be obtained for almost the entire periodic table in just minutes.

Laser Ablation Analysis

One of two laser ablation systems can be coupled to either of the above plasma source mass spectrometers for in situ elemental and/or isotopic analysis with high spatial resolution at the 1-100 μm scale.

Resonetics RESOlution M-50-LR excimer (193 nm) laser ablation system and Laurin Technic sample cell

New Wave UP-213 Nd:YAG deep UV (213 nm) laser ablation system

Ultra-clean laboratories

Chemical preparation for isotopic analysis is conducted in ultra-clean, metal-free Class 10 (ISO 4) and class 100 (ISO 5) clean laboratories equipped with:

  • Continuously supplied HEPA-filtered air for the effective removal of virtually all airborne particles
  • Laminar flow work stations supplied with air that is further filtered with high-performance ULPA-filtration units
  • Acid-scrubbed fume hood for digestion with HClO4
  • Milli-Q Element ultra-high purity (18.2 MΩ.cm) water
  • Quartz and Teflon sub-boiling distillation units for the production of high-purity acids and other chemical reagents

Additional facilities

  • Wet chemistry laboratories
  • Shipboard clean container (Research Vessel Polaris II)
  • Microwave digestion, fusion and high-pressure chemical preparation methods
  • Sample crushing and mineral separation laboratories
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Analytic services

A diverse range of projects are supported by the Centre’s mass spectrometers. These include student projects, collaborative research projects, and commercial contracts. Consultation expertise is also available.

  • Most metallic elements of the periodic table can be quantified for their elemental concentrations by ICP-MS.
  • Selected metallic elements can be quantified for their isotopic compositions by MC-ICPMS.
  • Wide ranging sample types can be analysed, including, for example: waters, rocks, soils, sediments, biological materials, and synthetic compounds.

Previous work ranges from the identification of heavy metals in native parrot populations to tracking fish migration patterns using trace element and strontium isotope profiling.

Please contact lab staff for further information.

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Contact us

For general enquiries and queries please contact:

Professor Claudine Stirling
Email claudine.stirling@otago.ac.nz

or

Dr Malcom Reid
Email: malcolm.reid@otago.ac.nz

Postal Address:

Department of Geology
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054
New Zealand

Street address for deliveries:

Department of Chemistry Store
Union Place West
Dunedin 9016
New Zealand
Tel: +64 3 479 7894
Fax: +64 3 479 7906

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