PCIGR has established a high-precision database of reference materials, together with quality control protocols to monitor analytical accuracy and precision. In parallel, we have investigated the role of leaching, mineralogy and matrix effects on the precision and accuracy of MC-ICP-MS analyses, both for radiogenic and heavy stable isotopes. This work provides a key reference for the community and is influencing how researchers conduct their sample preparation and instrumental analyses. As a result, our work is improving inter-laboratory comparisons.
Our facility was named “nUBC” (Nu + UBC) to commemorate a partnership with Nu Instruments, the company that designed and manufactured four of the six instruments housed in the laboratories. Nu Instruments will use nUBC as a demonstration and testing facility for North America, and as a research and development centre in collaboration with PCIGR scientists and students. nUBC fosters new and improved analytical developments that are integrated with teaching and training.
An example that highlights R&D collaboration and training involved sending two MAGNET PhD students to the Nu Instruments factory in Wrexham, UK, in 2015. Together with Nu engineers, the students assessed the performance of the Nu Plasma II MC-ICP-MS for Fe isotopes depending on the type of sample introduction (wet vs. dry plasma) and the concentration difference between samples and standards. The tests were repeated at PCIGR on the same type of mass spectrometer as well as on the Nu Plasma 1700 to determine if the same results are obtained on different instruments and with true high resolution. Ultimately, this will lead to better understanding of the mass bias observed during Fe isotope analysis by MC-ICP-MS and improved methodology for user groups around the world.
With the introduction of the instruments in nUBC, we designed new experiments, such as tests to understand the effect of oxide formation on instrumental mass bias. Also, in collaboration with Nu Instruments engineers, we are looking to improve the limits of sensitivity of the instruments.