Inauguration of the new secondary ion mass spectrometer of the GFZ
20.08.2013 | Potsdam: At the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, the new secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS) is being going into operation. This machine costs 3.6 million Euros and is about 10 times faster and five times more accurate in the measurement of geologically important chemical systems than its predecessor. Secondary ion mass spectrometry is one of the most important micro-analytical methods in the geosciences for investigating isotopic and trace element compositions. The achieved detection limit is enormous: From unimaginably small samples on the order of billionths of a gram, SIMS locates a single atom among ten million other atoms. The tiniest traces of precious metals, for example, can therefore be determined, with which the formation of ore deposits can be explored.
Currently, there are exactly five such SIMS sites in Europe. "The Helmholtz Association is building a Helmholtz-SIMS network. For example, this coming January the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig will install a SIMS to study biological processes in the human environment, and the Helmholtz-Centre Dresden-Rossendorf will soon be using such a machine for resource exploration”, said Professor Reinhard Huettl, Chairman of the Board of the GFZ. "We as geoscientists see such a network as a basis for a global network of SIMS research for various scientific purposes: the GFZ is the first to make such a resource available to geosciences around the world."
To achieve this, a network based on a new type of remote control protocol is being developed, which will enable all partner institutions to use the full range of the SIMS technology. This innovative idea is mainly driven by Michael Wiedenbeck, head of the SIMS laboratory at the GFZ. Wiedenbeck: "Currently, a SIMS centre is being built in South Africa, which is run by several scientists that are right now being trained at the GFZ. In 2015, SIMS measurements will be operated for the first time from this partner institution, locally in Africa, while the sample to be examined is physically present under vacuum here in the SIMS instrument in Potsdam."
The plan is to further expand the network: Specifically, the establishment of a global network with South Africa, Brazil, India and Russia is being designed. The new cooperation concept should be completed by 2015, the full remote control operation of this network is targeted for the second half of 2015, when the devices will be made available to researchers worldwide. The demand for such microanalysis exists not only on the part of the GFZ: The first projects from Norway and Aachen have already been confirmed for the coming November.
The GFZ operates a SIMS laboratory since 1998, which, based on cooperation, has been made available to scientists from around the world. More than one hundred projects with scientists from 22 countries have been completed here over the last 14 years.
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