The Radiogenic Isotope Facility is one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world.

Our Radiogenic Isotope Facility (RIF) is a significant and unique element of UQ's research infrastructural base.

The $5 million laboratory is widely acknowledged by peers as being among the more advanced facility of its kind in the world.

The HEPA-filtered “ultra-clean” laboratory and centrally-controlled air-handling system is one of a limited number of facilities in Australia that has such a high level of analytical sophistication, range and quality of mass spectrometers, and proven ultra-low analytical blank performance.

Features

The RIF features four mainly ARC-funded strategic instruments, including a Nu Instruments multi-collector Inductively coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS) and VG Sector 54 Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer (TIMS) for various isotope analyses, and a Thermo X Series II quadrupole ICP-MS and an Agilent 7900 ICP-MS for high-precision multi-element concentration and ratio measurements.

You can use the RIF to analyse a range of materials, including:

  • igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks
  • minerals, mineralised rocks or ores
  • carbonates of various origins (such as corals, speleothem, limestones, calcretes and shells)
  • ceramics and other stone artefacts
  • fossil teeth and bones
  • wood and other plant materials
  • low-salinity waters
  • seawater (needs special treatment)
  • other biological or environmental samples.

For more details about specific facilities or pieces of equipment, scroll down to the Facilities table below.

Sample preparation requirements:

  • Ideally silicate rock samples should be prepared in agate mills. This service is available from our Sample Preparation Laboratory.
  • Samples used for trace element analyses must not be crushed in tungsten-carbide mills (due to contamination from W and other high-field-strength elements, which are extremely hard to wash in the ICP-MS).
  • Information must be provided about peculiar sample characteristics (for example, high Pb, Hg, W, Zn). This service can be provided at an additional expense.
  • Sample pre-preparation that has to be performed beyond RIF lab capabilities, such as separation and hand-picking of minerals, will incur an additional expense. This service is available from our Sample Preparation Laboratory.

For more information, download our RIF standards and procedures (PDF, 99.1kB), or see our 2000-2015 publication list (PDF, 237kB).

Availability

The RIF serves clients across seven UQ faculties and institutes.

To discuss your analytical requirements and sample preparation, email the RIF Scientific and Technical Managers, Professor Jian-xin Zhao and Dr Yue-xing Feng.

Contact details for our other RIF staff members are listed below.

To see our prices for analyses, download our pricelist (PDF, 107kB).

Staff

Professor Jian-xin Zhao

Dr Yue-xing Feng

Dr Ai Nguyen

Dr Faye Liu

Dr Wei Zhou

Facilities

Floor plan of laboratory complexHEPA-filtered ultra-clean laboratory complex

  • Total floor area: ~200m2.
  • Comprises a HEPA-filtered Class 35 (100) temperature- and humidity-controlled clean room to house a number of mass spectrometers.
  • Next to the mass spectrometer laboratory is a suite of sequentially pressurised, charcoal- (to remove lead from the air) and HEPA-filtered, metal-free chemistry laboratories, ranging in air quality from Class 3500 (10,000) to better than Class 35 (100). 
  • The air-handling system has performed extremely well during extremes of temperature and humidity, and has continued to maintain an environment with temperature of 22±0.5°C and 50±10% RH. Such tight control on the environment has had a major influence on the performance of the mass spectrometers which all exceeded very tight performance specifications.

the chemistry suite entranceSix positively pressured chemistry laboratories

Chemistry laboratories are available for the following activities:

  • sample preparation and digestion
  • balance room for sample weighting
  • acid preparation, acid distillation and cleaning of low blank Teflon® ware
  • U-series chemistry
  • mainly Rb-Sr, rare earth element (REE) and other element chemistry
  • mainly trace Pb chemistry.

The latter laboratory has the highest positive pressure and the largest number of air changes per hour (ca. 70). The chemistry suite is accessed via a gowning room that has a positive pressure relative to the entry corridor.

To avoid contamination due to corrosion in the acid environment, construction materials were selected to reduce the exposure of metal surfaces:

  • wall surfaces and the ceilings are painted with numerous applications of acid-resistant epoxy
  • bench tops are constructed of moulded white PVC
  • under-bench cabinets have wheels to facilitate removal for routine cleaning.

A fume hoodHEPA and ULPA fume hoods

  • The chemistry laboratory is equipped with HEPA- and ULPA- (99.999% filtration) filtered polypropylene hoods and work stations.
  • Miniature wall-mounted HEPA- and ULPA-filtered evacuated enclosures equipped with Teflon®-encased hot plates provide an environment for sample evaporation during element extraction. These units have proven to be extremely effective in maintaining superb processing blanks.

The Satorius analytical balanceSatorius analytical balance and Cahn microbalance

  • Both are located in the balance room.

The acid distillation systemAcid distillation system

  • Four Teflon® stills and two bottle Teflon® stills are housed in a HEPA-filtered hood for ultra-low blank reagent distillation.
  • The Teflon® stills yield between one and three litres per day of trace-metal grade reagent. 

The de-ionised water plantWater

  • The water system for the laboratory includes a de-ionised water plant producing <10 meg W water and a reverse osmosis system that feeds a Milli-Q® water system.

Instrumentation

A researcher uses the Nu Instruments multi-collector inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometerNu Instruments multi-collector inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS)

  • Features a double-focusing analyser with zoom/variable dispersion ion optics, a modified detector configuration consisting of 12 Faraday collectors, and three discrete dynode ion counting multipliers (two of which have a deceleration lens filter behind each multiplier to enhance abundance sensitivity for accurate measurement of extremely low-abundance isotopes).
  • A purpose-built automatic sample introduction system allows for high-precision and high-throughput isotope analyses of many elements in the periodic table, from lithium to uranium, for geological, geographical, marine, environmental, climatic, chemical, archaeological, forensic and biomedical applications. Analytical protocols for a large number of elements, such as U, Th, Rb, Sr, Sm, Nd, Pb, Hf, Cd are already set up, and other elements, such as Fe, Zn, Cu, Mo, including their chemical treatment procedures, are being set up. Protocols for other elements can be set up if research need is high.
  • A new laser-ablation system will be installed and coupled with the MC-ICP-MS for in situ isotopic analysis for various applications.

A researcher uses the VG Sector 54 thermal ionisation mass spectrometerVG Sector 54 thermal ionisation mass spectrometer (TIMS)

  • Equipped with nine Faraday collectors (for high-precision measurement of high-abundance isotopes) and one DALY ion counter with a WARP filter in the axial position to achieve very high abundance sensitivity (for measurement of low-abundance isotopes, for example 230Th, 234U, 204Pb).
  • Allows unattended analysis of up to 20 samples and can be remotely controlled online.
  • Since the operation of the new MC-ICP-MS, the TIMS is dedicated to specialised automated high-precision Sr isotope analysis.

A researcher uses the Agilent 7900 quadrupole Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass-SpectrometerAgilent 7900 quadrupole Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass-Spectrometer (ICP-MS) with collision cell

  • This powerful, automated quadrupole ICP-MS uses innovative technology and a new MassHunter software platform.
  • The matrix tolerance has been extended into the 10s of % total dissolved solids (TDS) range, allowing you to measure samples containing up to 25% TDS.
  • Boasts a linear dynamic range of up to 11 orders of magnitude (from sub-ppt to %-level concentrations), as well as a helium collision mode to minimise interference.
  • Delivers superior-quality data with minimal drift and high precision (below 5%RSD at low ppb levels).
  • Also used for high-throughput Fe isotope analysis for environmental applications.
  • Detection levels are in the ppt range for many elements.

The Thermo-X Series II quadrupole inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometerThermo-X Series II quadrupole inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer

  • Has high sensitivity and low background and is equipped with a PC3 automatic sample introduction system to achieve high throughput. 
  • Concentrated on high-throughput elemental ratio analyses for high temporal-resolution environmental and climatic research (such as reconstruction of past sea-surface temperature change on fortnightly to monthly resolution).
  • Provides excellent analytical precisions (typically <5%, with most <2%) for more than 40 elements in the periodic table. Also offers high-throughput, high-precision elemental ratio analyses (for example, Sr/Ca, Mg/Ca, U/Ca, Ba/Ca, Mn/Ca) of corals and speleothems with external reproducibility typically <0.3% for coral and Sr/Ca and <0.5% for coral Mg/Ca.