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

Laser Ablation ICP-MS

RESOlution M-50-LR | NWR193UC


PCIGR offers a workstation, named LaserSpot, designed for the preparation, imaging, and data processing of both in-situ and micro-analysis.

To review our on-going monitoring efforts and performance over the years, please visit the LA-ICP-MS Services page.

RESOlution M-50-LR

The RESOlution M-50-LR (Applied Spectra, Inc.) is a Class I laser system equipped with a UV excimer laser source (Coherent COMPex Pro 110; 193nm). The powerful laser head and sophisticated optical system allow for the ablation of a wide range of geological and environmental materials at high resolution and low absorbance.

High sampling resolution is assured with spot sizes from 5 to 200 µm. A recent upgrade of the sample stage (‘z-stage’) enables an accurate beam focus even on rough sample surfaces. In addition, a unique two-volume cell developed by Laurin Technic Pty. Ltd. (Australia) provides high sensitivity, low fractionation and short wash-out times, as well as fast sample throughput.

PCIGR keeps on hand a second complete sample chamber and introduction accessories in order to separate high-matrix work from measurements at ultra-low levels and hence avoid cross-contamination. Samples of various dimensions, such as microscopic slides, mineral mounts, thick rock sections, slices of speleothems, drill cores and samples of irregular shape, may be investigated via multiple sample holders.

Resolution M50LR laser

At PCIGR, the RESOlution laser system can be connected to our Agilent 7700x quadrupole ICP-MS and to the Nu AttoM HR-SF-ICP-MS.

The Agilent 7700x incorporates a newly developed third-generation collision/reaction cell that is used in helium mode to offer higher sensitivity, lower backgrounds and more effective polyatomic interference removal of complex sample matrices. The Nu AttoM enables high-precision elemental and isotopic analyses at low concentration levels.

Most applications at present comprise the analyses of low-level trace element concentrations in quartz veins and mineral grains, investigations of mineral zonation, U-Pb geochronology on zircons, monazite, apatite, titanite and rutile (e.g., Wall et al., 2016; VerHoeve et al., 2018), and growth rings of mussel shells and fish otoliths for their trace element variations.

Split-stream LA-ICP-MS has recently been used to assess trace element (Agilent 7700x) and Pb isotope (Nu AttoM) compositions in low-concentration plagioclase, pyroxenes, and sulphides in geological rock samples, and in various archaeological materials and artifacts (e.g., McMillan et al., 2019; Fourny et al., 2020).

Due to the variability in sample types, we focus on the development and testing of appropriate standard and reference materials for the application in microanalytical work by laser ablation.

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The NWR193UC laser ablation system (Elemental Scientific Lasers/New Wave Research) was installed in May 2015. The core of the instrument is a Coherent ExciStar XS ArF Excimer laser (wavelength of 193 nm), which delivers pulses of high energy light (up to 8 mJ) at a repetition rate up of 200 Hz, with an average 1 W of power per pulse.

The laser can be dynamically attenuated, and focussed to spot sizes of 2 to 150 μm, allowing for flexible micro-sampling of solid materials. The system is equipped with a TwoVol2 ablation cell. The cell comprises a main cell capable of containing samples of various shapes and sizes, and is fitted with a small cyclonic cup for efficient aerosol transport and washout.

Using a split-stream method, the NWR193UC is coupled to both the Nu Plasma MC-ICP-MS for high-precision, in-situ Hf isotope analysis of zircon, and to the Thermo Scientific Element 2 HR-ICP-MS for U-Pb geochronology of zircon and monzanite.

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Fourny, A., Scoates, J., Weis, D. and Amini, M. 2020. Testing for Pb isotopic differences between minerals in the Kiglapait layered intrusion by LA-ICP-MS. Chemical Geology, 537: 119475, doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2020.119475.

McMillan, R., Amini, M. and Weis, D. 2019. Splitting obsidian: Assessing a multiproxy approach for sourcing obsidian artifacts in British Columbia. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 28: 102040, doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.102040.

VerHoeve, T., Scoates, J., Wall, C., Weis, D. and Amini, M. 2018. Evaluating downhole fractionation corrections in LA-ICP-MS U-Pb zircon geochronology. Chemical Geology, 483: 201-217, doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2017.12.014.

Wall, C., Scoates, J. and Weis, D. 2016. Zircon from the Anorthosite zone II of the Stillwater Complex as a U–Pb geochronological reference material for Archean rocks. Chemical Geology, 436: 54-71, doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2016.04.027.