LA-MC-ICPMS Laboratory

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​The laser ablation (LA) multi-collector (MC) inductively coupled plasma source mass spectrometer (ICPMS) was bought in 2015 with a 15-million ZAR NRF-NEP grant to Profs. Marlina Elburg and Jan Kramers. It consists of a Nu Instruments Plasma II, coupled to an ASI Resonetics 193 nm Excimer laser ablation system.

The instrument is housed within the Spectrum Analytical Facility, and has been operational since April 2016, under the care of CIMERA-funded Instrument Scientist Henriette Ueckermann. The equipment can be used for the analysis of the isotopic composition of non-gaseous elements in solid samples or purified solutions with a very high precision and accuracy. For analyses that cannot be done by laser ablation, it is necessary to isolate the element of interest, and this work needs to be done in a very clean environment; for this aspect, we rely on collaboration with colleagues at the University of the Witwatersrand.

With this equipment, we can obtain ages of rocks, varying between 3.5 billion and less than 1 million years; to identify the sources of magmatic rocks, such as the Bushveld Complex; to establish the atmospheric conditions on the early Earth; and to find evidence for the earliest life forms on Earth. Apart from the obvious geological applications, the equipment is also used for projects related to the health of certain avian species, while forensic and archaeological applications are also a possibility.

Since 2019, the laboratory also has a Thermo iCap quadrupole ICPMS that can also be coupled to the LA system. This is mainly used for the determination of trace element concentrations in solid materials such as minerals and glass.

If you are interested in working with this equipment, or just knowing more about it, please contact Prof. Marlina Elburg (

La Mc Icpms

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