Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences,
The University of British Columbia


Nu lab - Sep23-2013The Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR) officially opened on Dec. 12, 2002. In the last 10 years, PCIGR has more than doubled its analytical capacity and become a major world-class geochemical facility. Housed at the University of British Columbia (UBC), the centre serves the research needs of investigators from universities across Canada, several government agencies, the mineral and environmental industries, and the international research community. PCIGR is a unique research facility within Canada and provides analytical instrumentation critical for resolving problems in the solid earth, ocean, environmental, atmospheric and biological sciences.

Isotopic and geochemical compositions can be used to constrain the nature and origin of a wide range of materials, enabling scientists to better understand the processes that have operated on Earth over time. Recent developments in instrumentation, particularly in multi-collector and high-resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, have opened up exciting new avenues of research by making it possible to detect and measure geochemical tracers at extremely low concentrations and to measure the isotopic composition of an unprecedented range of elements. Isotopic and chemical systems currently under investigation at PCIGR and being applied to earth science phenomena include: radiogenic isotopes used in tracer studies (Pb-Pb, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Lu-Hf), radiogenic isotopes for geochronological studies (U-Pb, Ar-Ar, (U-Th)-He), heavy stable isotopes in geologic and biologic materials (Cd, Li, Cr, Si, Cu, Zn, Fe, Mg, Mo), light stable isotopes in minerals, waters and gases (C, O, N, H), and trace element concentrations (lithophile, REE, PGE) of rocks, minerals, soils, and waters.

The major research tools include: (1) the geochemical tracer laboratory, which uses the Nu Plasma (HR/II/1700) MC-ICP-MS for isotopic analyses of elements from light (Mg) to heavy (Pb) atomic masses, the Triton TIMS for precise Sr and Nd isotopic analyses and spike calibration, and the HR-ICP-MS instruments (Element2 and AttoM) for trace element concentrations; (2) the geochronology laboratory, which uses TIMS instruments (Triton and Sector 54) for U-Pb, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb dating, the Nu Plasma (HR/II/1700) MC-ICP-MS for Lu-Hf dating, the noble gas machine for Ar-Ar dating, and the HR-ICP-MS instruments (Element2 and AttoM) for the elemental concentrations required for initial ratio and isochron calculations; (3) the crustal fluids laboratory, which is centered around the DeltaPlus LS-IRMS, but also uses the MC-ICP-MS and TIMS for analyzing radiogenic isotopes (Sr, Pb), and (4) the environmental chemistry laboratory, which makes extensive use of the HR-ICP-MS instruments (Element2 and AttoM) as well as the Nu Plasma (HR/II/1700) MC-ICP-MS (Cd, Si, Cr, Fe, and Mo isotopes).

The relocation of PCIGR from the UBC Chemistry Building to the Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (EOAS) Building was completed early 2005. All of the instruments (6 mass spectrometers) were moved in late November/early December 2004 into new laboratories in the basement of EOAS Main. Most of the instruments benefited from a thorough cleaning and tune-up by the factory engineers who came to help us in this enterprise. Three low-level trace metal and geochronology clean laboratories (equipped with 42 HEPA-filters) were built on the third floor of EOAS Main.

In 2009, PCIGR received approval of funding from the CFI-LEF and BC-KDF to expand the facility, and by 2010 the plans and designs were well underway. Construction of the new 2200 sq. ft. clean laboratories on the ground floor of EOAS Main took place between January and September 2011. By October 2014, all 6 of the new instruments acquired through this project were installed in this state-of-the-art facility. Other major achievements at PCIGR have recently included the development of an R&D collaboration with Nu Instruments and the establishment of a student training program in geochemistry (MAGNET- Multidisciplinary Applied Geochemistry Network).

See below some photos and floor plans of the PCIGR chemistry and instrument laboratories at EOAS.