TA2 Facility 15 – ETH Zurich Geo- and Cosmochemistry Noble Gas Laboratory
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TA2 Facility 15 – ETH Zurich Geo- and Cosmochemistry Noble Gas Laboratory

Average visit: 10 days

The Noble Gas Laboratory houses a wealth of equipment for high precision isotopic and elemental abundance measurements of all noble gases in samples important for Cosmo- and Geochemistry.

The “TOM Dooley” high-sensitivity mass spectrometer with compressor source was developed to measure very small amounts of all He and Ne isotopes in extraterrestrial and terrestrial samples.

A UV laser ablation system and an IR laser are typically used to release the noble gases.

Samples that have been analysed recently include e.g. presolar grains, minerals from CAIs, aerogel flown on NASA’s stardust mission, asteroid dust returned by JAXA’s Hayabusa mission, small meteoritic material, small lunar samples from the Apollo missions, lunar glass and mineral separates, terrestrial kimberlite olivine, chromite from phases resulting from high pressure partitioning experiments.

The “ALBATROS” mass spectrometer is equipped with two detectors and used routinely for extraterrestrial samples. All isotopes of He-Xe can be analysed in three phases.

Extraction options include
(i) an Au-Pt-Etch device (“CSSE”) for stepwise gas release in UHV induced by various acids utilizing the distinct susceptibility of various minerals in extraterrestrial materials to these acids,
(ii) an IR-laser,
(iii) a UV laser ablation system and
(iv) an electron-impact heated crucible (up to ~1750 °C), where up to 44 samples (depending on size) can be loaded into UHV.

Recently analysed samples include bulk samples of meteorites of many classes, Apollo rocks, aerogel from NASA’s Stardust mission

Two further multi-collection mass spectrometers (one home-built for detection of Ar, Kr and Xe in connection with TOM Dooley, one Nu instrument Noblesse with 5F5M configuration in connection with Albatros) are currently being set up.


Dr Henner Busemann, Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology, Clausiusstrasse 25, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland.

Noble gas mass spectrometry
Instrument development

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