June 5, 2021

‘NIGeL’ isotope geochemistry laboratory awarded 4.85M Euros

The Vrije University’s Department of Geology and Geochemistry, which leads the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) Programme, has been awarded €4.85 million from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to set up and equip a new laboratory for isotope geochemistry analysis. The facility, which will be called the Netherlands state-of-the-art Isotope GEochemistry Laboratory (NIGeL), is led by Prof Gareth Davies of VU, and involves partners from University of Groningen, Utrecht University, Leiden University, the Rijksmuseum, and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI).

Prof Gareth Davies, TA Coordinator for Europlanet 2024 RI, introduces the NIGeL facility.

The new infrastructure will be used by national and international research groups from Earth and planetary sciences, archaeology, forensic research, and cultural heritage. The facility will open in 2023.

New mass spectrometry methods in NIGeL will enable analysis of extremely small samples (<10 ng) and in-situ measurements, essential capabilities for research where sample size is a limiting factor but high precision is required e.g. in the analysis of meteorites and samples returned from planetary missions.

Other planetary research that will be enabled through NIGeL includes studies of the origins of habitability on Earth and other planetary bodies in the Solar System, as well as research into terrestrial element cycles resulting from plate tectonics and volcanism, and their influence on climate.

Multidisciplinary research supported by the facility includes archaeological studies of the diet and mobility of animals and humans, cultural heritage research into the development of artistic methods and preservation strategies for artworks, and forensic applications in the identification of unknown human remains.

NIGeL was ranked first of seven projects that are being funded through the ‘NWO Large Investments’ programme, which is providing 19.5 million euros to support innovative scientific infrastructure in the Netherlands.

Prof Nigel Mason, Coordinator of Europlanet 2024 RI said: “The success of NIGeL is clearly very good news. Many congratulations to Gareth and the team behind this project. The Geology and Geochemistry Isotope Facility at VU Amsterdam is an important part of Europe’s planetary science infrastructure. This investment to upgrade the instrumentation to state-of-the-art and provide more capacity will secure its world-leading status for many years to come. We look forward to being able to offer access to NIGeL, once it is complete, through the Europlanet TA programme.”