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

High Resolution ICP-MS

Nu AttoM | Thermo Finnigan ELEMENT2

1. Nu AttoM

The Nu AttoM is a double-focusing, high-resolution magnetic sector mass spectrometer. The instrument is designed to provide precise and accurate isotope ratio analysis and elemental analysis of most elements in solution or in-situ down to sub-ppt levels (best RSDs at about 250 ppt).

A unique detector system gives the AttoM a large dynamic range (best linearity in pulse counting mode to 3 ppb), and its electrostatic scanning capability has the widest range in its class. One of the main advantages of the AttoM is high counts for low ppb samples and a volume of as low as 250 µL can be used for a single Pb analysis. By employing pre- and post-magnet electrostatic lenses to switch between isotope positions (on the micro-second timescale), up to 40% (relative) of the mass range can be scanned without adjustment to the magnet position. The LinkScan mode, which combines the fast magnet scan with the unique deflector optics, is very useful for applications such as laser ablation.

The Nu AttoM was installed in PCIGR’s nUBC lab in September 2011. Recent applications include Pb isotopes in seawater and honeys, HFSE and REEs in rocks, and Li concentrations in column cuts.


2. Thermo Finnigan ELEMENT2

This high-resolution single-collector ICP-MS (HR-ICP-MS), installed in 2002, is capable of analyzing elements in solution at concentrations as low as parts per trillion (ppt) and has a dynamic range of over 9 orders of magnitude. Most interferences can be resolved at the analysis step, minimizing the need for excessive sample processing.

Numerous labs across Canada have ICP-MS instruments. Our facility stands out by its versatility and ability to adapt to different users, and by its full capacity to realize high-resolution analysis. The Element2 is used by multiple users every week; each user has samples for a different application and matrix (seawater, fresh water, porewater, soil, rock, etc.). The transition from one application to another is smooth and efficient. To date, users of the Element2 have mainly been employing straightforward nebulization ICP-MS (IDMS has also been used extensively).


Applications of the Element2 include trace element profiles (REEs/HFSE or both) for mineral separates such as apatites, fluorites, feldspars, and clinopyroxenes; complete trace elemental profiles for komatiites, basalts, granites, diorites, peridotites, and anorthosites, including at least 13 different reference materials for lithophile, chalcophile, and siderophile elements in different rock matrices; low-level trace element concentrations in USGS standards; Cu concentrations in trace metal clean artificial seawater (used in culturing phytoplankton); trace element concentrations in seawater; an assessment of metal mobility in lake sediments contaminated with mine tailings; and the characterization of As species in biological tissues and water samples.

The Element2 is extremely useful for our everyday lab quality control (lab blanks, reagent blanks, column calibration, exact sample contents for MC-ICP-MS analyses).

We are also performing LA-ICP-MS U-Pb dating of zircons, using a New Wave 213nm Nd-YAG laser fitted with a New Wave “Supercell” ablation chamber, coupled to the Element2.