Lewis Banks, Postgraduate Researcher

Advancing micro-analytical isotopic and trace-element ICP-MS techniques for future applications to ore genesis and exploration

Contact DetailsLewis Banks

Project Overview

There is an ever increasing need to assess heterogeneity in geochemical systems by exploring the wealth of information contained in mineral-scale records of magmatic and ore forming processes. In order to explore these records, tracer isotopic systems such as U-Pb, Lu-Hf, Sm-Nd and Rb-Sr and trace element data need to be measured at level of precision greater than the range in values for that system. Pairing this data with detailed petrological and geochronological records will allow a comprehensive understanding of the ore forming or magmatic system. For many isotopic and trace element systems, ICP-MS is the instrument of choice due to its speed and versatility. However, there are significant limitations to conventional methods of sample introduction that arise from low volumes of material or low elemental concentrations in the mineral. Until recently, these limitations have left considerable amounts of information outside of the realms of analytical capability.

Technological and methodological advances can influence step changes to the field of analytical geochemistry. The Teledyne-CETAC MVX 7100µl Workstation provides novel sample introduction for ICP-MS analysis that utilises an amount of sample that can be reduced by at least an order of magnitude compared to conventional solution analysis methods. This is achieved while maintaining comparable levels of precision and accuracy in isotopic ratio space.

This new technology enables the analysis of isotopic and trace elements at levels previously at too low a concentration to analyse precisely and accurately. Implications of this new analytical capability include a more detailed understanding of ore deposit genesis at a greater level of spatial resolution and analytical precision.

Research Theme

Solid Earth

Research Questions

  • What are the current measurement capabilities of ICP-MS for low volumes of sample and low concentrations of analyte? What are the current limitations to conventional ICP-MS analysis? How do these effect the precision and accuracy which can be currently achieved on a given amount of material? How can these limits be addressed and overcome?
  • Which isotopic systems require a large amount of material to achieve a precise and accurate result? Which mineral phases concentrate the element of interest in low amounts?
  • Are there any matrix effects that may affect the measurement precision and accuracy?
  • Are commonly used reference materials as homogenous as previously thought? How will any heterogeneity affect data acquired through the new, low volume analysis?
  • How will the new, high resolution data be linked to petrographic and geochronological data? How does this aid our understanding of igneous and ore forming processes?
  • What are the analytical capabilities of the new, low volume method? What are the limitations of this method?

Further Links

CENTA NERC DTP profile: http://www.centa.org.uk/about/students/lewisbanks/

Twitter: @geologybanks

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