In our Mass Spectrometry and Laser Ablation laboratory we analyse trace elements and isotopes of geological, environmental, industrial and construction materials. This helps us to understand geological and planetary processes that influence changes in the environment and the formation of natural resources.

Students, researchers and external partners use this information to better understand topics such as the absolute ages and rates of geological and planetary processes, as well as powerful chemical fingerprints of natural phenomena ranging from natural resource formation to environmental change.

The laboratory supports our research work in Crustal Evolution and Ecotoxicology and Environmental Monitoring, and the collaborative projects we undertake with industry and academic partners from outside the University.


  • PQ Elite Mass Spectrometer — a high-sensitivity scanner used to detect trace element and U-Th-Pb ratio measurements, most commonly used in uranium-lead dating
  • Nu Plasma Mass Spectrometer — used to make high-precision isotope ratio measurements with an upgraded sensitivity to support better laser ablation analyses
  • ASI Resolution Excimer Laser Ablation System — a laser ablation system for in-situ sampling of solid materials, which can be coupled to the PQ Elite and Nu-Plasma mass spectrometers
  • New Wave UP-213 ND:YAG Laser Ablation System — a solid-state laser used for in-situ trace element analysis of materials, which can be coupled to all of the mass spectrometers, and a Spectro Blue ICP-OES system
  • Clean laboratory — a HEPA filtered clean laboratory used to prepare samples for trace element and isotopic analyses, fitted with 2 class-10 laminar flow hoods for chemical preparation and ion-exchange chromatography

Analytical capabilities

We conduct laser ablation measurements, including U-Th-Pb isotope geochronology, trace element analyses and isotopic measurements.

Solution measurements include:

  • Elemental analysis of soils, sediments and waters (fresh/ground/marine/tap)
  • Trace element analysis of geological materials
  • Element analysis of natural and industrial dusts
  • Lead isotope analysis of geological materials including silicates, sulphides, oxides and phosphates

In-situ measurements by laser ablation include:

  • Trace element analysis of geological materials, including silicates, sulphides, oxides and phosphates
  • U-Th-Pb isotope analysis of zircon, monazite, allanite, titanite, apatite, rutile
  • Lead isotope analysis of silicates and sulphides
  • Hafnium isotope analysis of zircon
  • Neodymium isotope analysis
  • Elemental and isotopic 2D mapping

Contact us

For research enquiries, please contact Dr James Darling or Dr Craig Storey

To hire our equipment or services, please email our Research and Innovation Services Team

Where to find us

Mass Spectrometry and Laser Ablation Lab

Burnaby Building
Burnaby Road