As part of the School of Earth and Environmental Science at The University of Manchester, we have access to some of the most advanced laboratories available to Earth and environmental scientists in the UK. Our research is conducted in the Advanced Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Suite, which includes the following instrumentation:

TOF-SIMS instruments (Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry)

This instrument was part of the original core three UKCAN nodes. The IDLE is a time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometer (TOF-SIMS) with laser post ionization for secondary neutrals, capable of very efficient analysis of micron- and submicron-sized samples. The acquisition of all secondary ions in parallel makes the IDLE very efficient and keeps sample sputtering to a minimum. Minimal sample loss is essential for samples like presolar grains which are only a few microns in size and cometary dust.

NG-RIMS (Noble Gas Resonance Ionization Mass Spectrometry)
  • RELAX (Refrigerator Enhanced Laser Analyser for Xenon is routinely used to analyse small quantities of xenon in a variety of terrestrial and extraterrestrial samples. 
  • RIMSKI (Resonance Ionisation Mass Spectrometer for Krypton Isotopes is used to measure all naturally occurring isotopes of krypton using the same fundamental principles as are found in the RELAX spectrometer
  • The detection limits of both spectrometers are ~1000 atoms.
NI-NGMS (Neutron Irradiated Noble Gas Mass Spectrometry, for analysis of halogens as noble gases and Ar-Ar dating)
  • The Argus VI is specially designed to quantify Ar-isotopes from small samples for argon-argon dating applications and halogen element determination. The low volume system is used with a laser system to liberate gas from samples as small as 1 mg in mass. 
HELIX MC (high-precision multicollector noble gas mass spectrometer)
  • Enables precise isotopic determinations of natural noble gas components (He, Ne, Ar, Kr and Xe) in extraterrestrial and terrestrial materials.
VG 5400 (multicollector noble gas mass spectrometer)
  • The VG 5400 comes equipped with one faraday cup analyser and an electron multiplier allowing it to produce high sensitivity measurements of all noble gas (He, Ne, Ar, Kr and Xe) isotopes. Our VG has been regularly upgraded in terms of hardware and software and is still the workhorse of the G69 noble gas lab. The VG has been designed for high precision measurements of noble gases in both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial samples.
Clean room suite
  • Two class 100 wet chemistry labs equipped with class 10 fume hoods/laminar flow hoods. Ultra-pure acids are sub-distilled for use in digestion and column procedures.
  • A class 1000 preparation lab equipped with microscopes, and a glove box for handling dust in a clean environment.
  • A sample preparation laboratory for imaging samples and preparing them for analyses.

A triple quadrupole ICP-MS instrument, coupled to an excimer laser (LA-ICP-MS), for trace element and isotope analyses in solid samples. Routine analyses include trace element analyses in mineral and glass phases, and U-Pb dating in U-bearing minerals (zircon, monazite, apatite). Typical spot sizes are in the range 10-80 micrometres, depending on the target element abundances and the precision required.

The Isotope Group’s NG-RIMS, NI-NGMS, TOF-SIMS and LA-ICP-MS facilities are part of the UK Cosmochemistry Analytical Network, a network UK laboratories that play a lead role in the analysis of extraterrestrial materials. Please see the UKCAN contacts page for further information about access.

Planetary research also uses instruments available through the Williamson Research Centre (QEMSCAN, ESEM, EPMA, GCMS, Raman, FTIR), and the Materials Science Centre (HMXIF, NanoSIMS).

Research expertise

We are actively involved in researching the history of our galaxy and Solar System.

Planetary missions

Our work has practical applications for planetary missions.