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A new termal ionization mass spectrometer for high-precision U-Pb geochronology

English title A new termal ionization mass spectrometer for high-precision U-Pb geochronology
Applicant Schaltegger Urs
Number 163984
Funding scheme R'EQUIP
Research institution Département des sciences de la Terre Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Geochronology
Start/End 01.12.2015 - 30.11.2016
Approved amount 490'000.00
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Keywords (5)

U-Pb dating; processs rates; geological timescales; magmatic processes; high-precision geochronology

Lay Summary (German)

Ein neues Thermionen-Massenspektrometer an der Universität Genf wird es ermöglichen, die analytischen Grenzen der U-Pb Datierung zu sprengen und die geologische Geschichte unserers Planeten mit grösserer Genauigkeit zu rekonstruieren.
Lay summary

Dieses Forschungsgesuch hat eine Summe von CHF 490'000 für den Kauf eines neuen Thermionen Massenspektrometers betantragt, welches vor allem für die hochpräzise Altersdatierung mit der U-Pb Methode verwendet werden wird. Mit den technischen Neuerungen, welche dieses Gerät bietet, wird es möglich sein, geologische Prozesse und Ereignisse in der Geschichte der Erde mit grösserer Genauigkeit zu datieren, sowohl ihr exaktes Alter als auch die Dauer und die Prozessraten.

Anwendungen solcher hochpräzisen Studien liegen in der Erfoschung erzbildender Prozesse (Bildung von Erlagerstätten), von Vulkanismus und Magmatismus, und von Veränderungen des Klimas und der Umwelt in der Erdgeschichte, welche zu dramatischen Aenderungen der Biodiversität geführt haben (sogenannte "Massensterben").

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 18.11.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Boise State Univeraity United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Massachussetts Institute of Technology United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
British Geological Survey, NERC Isotope Labs Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Lausanne Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Princeton University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
156424 Establishing globally valid tie points for intercalibration of biochronologic and radioisotopic timescales between the latest Permian and middle Jurassic using high-precision U-Pb dating of volcanic ash beds 01.12.2014 Project funding
182007 Temporal coupling of environmental change, volcanism and evolution in the geological past through high-precision geochronology 01.01.2019 Project funding
132030 SwissSIMS: A request for a Swiss National Dynamic Secondary Ion Probe Facility 01.10.2010 Research Infrastructure
162341 Temporal calibration of eruption dynamics of Large Igneous Provinces and correlation to global environmental disturbance with high-precision U-Pb dating of micro-zircon and -baddeleyite 01.01.2016 Project funding


This proposal seeks funding for a new thermal ionization mass spectrometer dedicated to high-precision U-Pb geochronology (CHF 390'000 of a total sum of 980'000 CHF). Highest precision U-Pb geochronology is the flagship research direction of the P.I. and the UNIGE laboratory has become one of the world leaders in high-precision U-Pb geochronology using chemical-abrasion, isotope-dilution, thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-ID-TIMS), in the frame of the worldwide EARTHTIME consortium. Achieved precision in obtained dates, as well as the long-term reproducibility of the laboratory are outstanding and worldwide unprecedented, but need a large and continuous effort of monitoring and quality assessment. The UNIGE laboratory has also developed application of trace element and isotope compositional analysis of the dated material. This allows, e.g., reconstruction of the evolution of the chemical and physical properties of a magmatic system at 10e3-10e5 years' temporal resolution.Envisaged technical developments of a new mass spectrometer include (1) the use of highly linear ion counting systems, on one hand to enlarge the dynamic range of ion counting, on the other hand for more precise characterization of the multiplier deadtime, and (2) the use of novel 10e12 and 10e13 Ohm high-resistance amplifiers, for Faraday-based, simultaneous Pb isotope measurement.The forefront research of the UNIGE U-Pb geochronology laboratory is of greatest importance to the local and national community. Students and researchers within the ELSTE (Ecole lémanique des sciences de la Terre; universities of Geneva and Lausanne) are continuously using this research infrastructure (e.g., in the frame of 28 PhD theses since 2006).