PCIGR has established a high-precision database of reference materials, together with quality control protocols to monitor 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 basis for the community and is influencing how researchers conduct their sample preparation and instrumental analyses, and as a result, it is improving inter-laboratory comparisons.
Our new facility was named “nUBC” (Nu + UBC) to commemorate a partnership with Nu Instruments, the company responsible for designing and manufacturing 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 & development centre in collaboration with PCIGR scientists and students. nUBC fosters new and improved analytical developments as well as integration with teaching and training.
A recent example highlighting the R&D collaboration and training involved sending two MAGNET PhD students to the Nu Instruments factory in Wrexham, UK. 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 will be 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 (NP1700). 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 new instruments in nUBC, we have designed new experiments, for example 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.