Capability

Stable isotope facility

We are the largest UK producer of stable isotope data, particularly specialising in climate, environmental and archaeological studies. We undertake high precision 13C/12C and 18O/16O analysis of sedimentary carbonates, organics and microfossils. Our fluorination 18O/16O and 30Si/28Si analysis of diatoms and other opaline forms of silica is a unique capability in the UK, and one of only a handful of laboratories of its kind in the world.

In addition, the production of high precision 2H/1H, 18O/16O and 13C/12C analysis of waters is vital for modern calibration studies to aid in the interpretation of palaeorecords.

Specialist analyses

Stable isotope facility

We also specialise in the study of geochemical processes in the hydrosphere and atmosphere, with particular strength in 15N/14N and 34S/32S analysis of a wide variety of compounds associated with nutrient transfer and pollution in the global nitrogen and sulphur cycles. 18O/16O analysis of nitrates and sulphates, which can provide valuable additional information on these environmentally important species, has now been added as a routine capability.

For archaeological research, we have recently undertaken pioneering work on 2H/1H analysis to join 13C/12, 15N/14N and 34S/32S methods in palaeodietary studies; in addition we are the leading UK laboratory for 18O/16O analysis of teeth and bone. The Stable isotope facility's combined 18O/16O and 87Sr/86Sr capability is especially valuable in studies of archaeological migration.

The laboratory has preparative and mass spectrometry facilities for determining the stable isotope ratios, at natural abundance levels, of the important light elements: 2H/1H, 13C/12C, 15N/14N, 18O/16O, 30Si/28Si and 34S/32S. We can undertake these analyses on a very wide range of sample materials relevant to studies across the environmental sciences. This is achieved by using a mixture of adaptable 'off-line' techniques, with access to four high vacuum gas preparation lines, alongside state-of-the-art, fully automated 'on-line' techniques.

Instrumentation

Instruments include eight stable isotope mass spectrometer systems:

Stable isotope facility
  • Isoprime with EuroPyrOH for analysis of water 2H/1H in marine and fresh waters, fluid inclusions, soil/plant materials
  • Isoprime 100 with Aquaprep for analysis of water 18O/16O in marine and fresh waters, fluid inclusions, soil/plant materials
  • Isoprime 100 with Multiprep for analysis of 13C/12C and 18O/16O of single microfossils
  • GV Isoprime with Multiprep and VG Optima for analysis of 13C/12C and 18O/16O of microfossil and other pure calcium carbonates, impure carbonates, and aqueous bicarbonate
  • VG Optima with Costech ECS4010 for analysis of 13C/12C and C/N of bulk organic materials (plants, soils, etc.)
  • Thermo Finnigan DeltaplusXL with oxidative and reductive elemental analysers for analysis of nitrogen and sulphur compounds: 15N/14N, 34S/32S, and 18O/16O of nitrate, ammonium, sulphate, sulphide, and organic N and S as well as 2H/1H, 13C/12C, 15N/14N, 18O/16O, and 34S/32S of bulk organic materials (plants, soils, etc.).
  • Thermo Finnigan MAT 253 with manifold for analysis of 18O/16O and 30Si/28Si of rock minerals, biogenic silica, and tooth/bone materials

    Materials

    Materials we analyse include:

    Stable isotope facility
    • Waters: 2H/1H and 18O/16O of marine and fresh waters, fluid inclusions (following microlitre extractive methods), and soil/plant materials (following vacuum distillation)
    • Carbonates: 13C/12C and 18O/16O of microfossil and other pure calcium carbonates (down to 40 micrograms), impure carbonates, and aqueous bicarbonate
    • Silicates and phosphates: 18O/16O and 30Si/28Si of rock minerals, biogenic silica, and tooth/bone materials.
    • Organic materials: 2H/1H, 13C/12C, 15N/14N, 18O/16O, and 34S/32S of bulk organic materials (plants, soils, etc.)
    • Nitrogen and sulphur compounds: 15N/14N, 34S/32S, and 18O/16O of nitrate, ammonium, sulphate, sulphide, and organic nitrogen and sulphur

    Contact

    Contact Béatrice Bullock-von Moos for further information about the Stable isotope facility.