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Mass Spectrometry

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The UNC Department of Geological Sciences houses a state-of-the-art isotope dilution-thermal ionization mass spectrometry (ID-TIMS) lab. The heart of the lab are two TIMS instruments that operate nearly continuously.

The newest addition to the lab is an IsotopX Phoenix X62 TIMS, installed in May, 2014. The Phoenix boasts a 20-bead turret, nine adjustable Faraday cups, a WARP filter and a Daly ion-counting photomultiplier system. The Phoenix is being used primarily for U-Pb zircon geocronology and Sm-Nd isotope geochemistry.

The second mass spectrometer is a VG Sector 54 TIMS, installed in 1991. The sector also has a 20-bead turret, eight adjustable Faraday cups, and a Daly ion-counting photomultiplier system. A complete electronics upgrade of the Sector occurred during the summer of 2001. The Sector is primarily used for Sr isotope geochemistry, but still cranks out beautiful U-Pb geocronologic data as well.


Clean Labs

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The second mass spectrometer and sample preparation facilities are housed in a class-1000 clean lab. The lab contains supporting electronics and computing for the mass spectrometer. Additionally, seven class 100 vented-hood workstations are available for sample preparation and column chemistry (for isolation of elements for analysis). The clean lab houses facilities for geochemical work with acids, including whole-rock dissolution and etching/staining.

The entire 3-room lab facility is pressurized and contains a Milli-Q water purification system. Cleaning protocols for the lab and equipment are rigorously maintained to reduce contamination.

Zircon Lab

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At UNC, much work has been done using zircon geochronology to enhance understanding of the rates of geologic  processes. The UNC Geology Department maintains a separate lab facility specifically for working with zircons for U-Pb dating. The Zircon lab is a class 100 clean lab with facilities geared towards the separation and preparation of zircons in an ultra-clean environment.

Crush Lab

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The rock-crushing lab contains standard rock-crushing equipment including a shatterbox, disk mill, and jaw crushers, as well as other preparation equipment such as a diamond rock saw.

Prep Lab

The rock preparation room contains equipment for density separation of minerals using heavy liquids, as well as magnetic separation equipment. The lab also includes facilities for the degassing of mass-spectrometer filaments and furnaces for the heating of whole-rock bombs.

Pick Lab

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Preparation equipment such as optical microscopes with video display and mineral picking capabilities are available in this lab.

Other Facilities

Researchers in the UNC Geochemistry Lab receive access to the full array of equipment available in the UNC Department of Geological Sciences. Access to the scanning electron microscope is particularly useful for mineral identification and semi-quantitative analysis. Additionally we installed an x-ray fluorescence spectrometry lab with all the necessary supporting equipment in summer 2009.

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