Analytical capabilities

Insitu collector block

The geochronology and tracers facility has a broad range of expertise in radiogenic isotope analysis and interpretation, focusing on U-(Th)-Pb geochronology and the application of radiogenic isotope tracers in environmental, geological and archaeological studies.

We are the only laboratory in the UK which undertakes high-precision U-(Th)-Pb analysis of zircon and other accessory minerals by isotope dilution thermal ionisation mass spectrometry (ID-TIMS), and we maintain a strong international reputation in this field. We take a leading role in the international community through our involvement in the EARTHTIME initiative. Our ID-TIMS facility is complemented by our capability in rapid in situ analysis using laser ablation MC-ICP-MS analysis.

We also specialise in the application of Si, Sr, Nd, Pb, U and Hf isotopes in a wide range of studies involving geochemical processes in the hydrosphere, pollution, and sedimentary provenance, as well as more traditional geological applications such as mantle geochemistry and crustal evolution.

We maintain state of the art facilities for both thermal ionisation mass spectrometry (TIMS) and multicollector inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS).

TIMS instruments

  • Thermo-Electron Triton 1 (with nine Faraday collectors, RPQ high abundance sensitivity filter, an ion counting SEM system, and Multiple Ion Counting system).
  • Thermo-Electron Triton 2 (with nine Faraday collectors, RPQ high abundance sensitivity filter, an ion counting SEM system, 10^12 Ω resistors allowing measurement of lower intensity signals on Faraday detectors).

ICP-MS instruments

  • Nu-Plasma HR equipped with full and pseudo-high resolution capability and a fixed collector array with zoom optics. The Nu-Plasma has interchangeable collector blocks to allow a wide range of applications in both U-(Th)-Pb geochronology of zircon and monazite and isotope tracer studies.
  • Neptune Plus high-sensitivity MC-ICP-MS with multiple ion counting and nine Faraday cups.
  • Nu Instruments AttoM. Single collector sector-field ICP-MS with super-fast electronics, for rapid analysis of small sample volumes across the entire mass spectrum.


Each of our three ICP-MS instruments can be coupled to either of three New Wave Research laser ablation systems (NewWave 193SS solid state, and 193FX and 193UC Excimer lasers) and/or one of three desolvating nebulisers, depending on the application.

Clean laboratories

We operate a clean chemical laboratory suite, comprising dedicated laboratories for:

  • U-(Th)-Pb geochronology
  • geological tracer analyses (Hf, Nd, Pb, Sr, with DU when required)
  • Sr and O-isotope environmental tracer analysis
  • U-series analysis

Mineral separation, microsampling and imaging

We have a well-equipped sample preparation facility for the extraction of heavy mineral concentrates using density and magnetic methods. A NewWave Micromill is available for microsampling in preparation for solution analysis. We have access to BGS microanalysis facilities for imaging and characterisation of samples using an FEI Quanta 600 scanning electron microscope, equipped with CL detector and with EDXA/WDXA facilities.


Please contact Béatrice Bullock-von Moos for further information.