Facilities

Plasma Mass Spectrometry
Wallace Observatory
Electron Microprobe
Laboratory for Noble Gas Geochronology
Organic Geochemistry Laboratory
ACES: Alliance for Computational Earth Science
Synoptic Laboratory
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) Laboratory
MIT Paleomagnetism Laboratory

Plasma Mass Spectrometry

EAPS operates quadrupole and multicollector sector mass spectrometers under the direction of Professor Ed Boyle. These instruments use a high temperature argon plasma to ionize elements from aqueous and gaseous samples prior to mass spectrometric analysis. The Micromass IsoProbe multicollector mass spectrometer is used to rapidly determine precise isotope ratios for lead, iron, hafnium, uranium, thorium, and other refractory elements. Its efficient hexapole transmission allows it to be used for highly sensitive (e.g. parts per trillion) analysis of trace elements in environmental samples with a minimum of interferences. Our VG PQ2+ quadrupole mass spectrometer is used for elemental analysis of environmental samples such as river and seawater and geological specimens.

Wallace Observatory

The Wallace Astrophysical Observatory is a teaching and research facility run by the EAPS planetary astronomy lab. Students in the observing subjects at MIT, 12.409 "Hands-on Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets" and 12.410 "Observational Techniques of Optical Astronomy", travel to Wallace to make observations.

Electron Microprobe (EMP)

The EMP facility is a part of EAPS’s Center for Geochemical Analysis. It is open to the entire MIT and WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) research community, with occasional use by external personnel. With its two JEOL JXA-733 Superprobes, the EMP provides a complete quantitative analysis of microscopic volumes of solid materials through x-ray emission spectrometry, and it provides high-resolution scanning electron and elemental x-ray images (also known as concentration maps). There are two types of scanning electron images: backscattered electron images, which show compositional contrast, and secondary electron images, which show enhanced surface and topographic features. In addition, scanning cathodoluminescence images, which is an image formed by light emission in response to electron interaction with the sample, can also be obtained.

Isotope Geochemistry and Geochronology

Work in the Isotope Geochemistry and Geochronology Lab has three major themes: high-precision geochronology applied to earth history, origin and evolution of continental lithosphere, and environmental geochemistry. The research group is directed by Professor Samuel Bowring.

  • Our laboratory is centered around three thermal ionization mass spectrometers a VG Sector 54 mass spectrometer (installed in 1991, upgraded in 2012) a Micromass Isoprobe-T, and an IsotopX X-62, which are all housed in temperature, controlled “clean rooms” equipped with laminar flow stations. All three are equipped with multiple Faraday cups and an ion-counting Daly detector for small ion beams. The Isoprobe T and X-62 are also equipped a WARP filter.
  • U-Pb zircon, baddeleyite, monazite, rutile, and titanite analyses are performed using a mixed 205Pb-235U-233U and a 202Pb-205Pb-233U-235U tracer with total procedural blanks that are routinely <0.2-0.4 picograms for lead and less than 0.1 picograms for U. Using single collector ion-counting with peak jumping, we achieve high-precision analyses of samples with as little as 5-10 picograms of radiogenic Pb; at present, our minimum sample size is blank limited. We are a node within the international EARTHTIME network (www.earth-time.org) that is focused on community driven collaboration to improve all geochronological methods.
  • Other radiogenic isotope systems: Samarium-Neodymium: Nd and Sm analyses are routinely done in dynamic analysis mode with external reproducibility of isotope ratios over 15 years better than 20 ppm (2 sigma). Strontium: we routinely analyze Sr in waters, carbonates, and silicates by dynamic analysis. Common Pb: we analyze rocks, mineral, and environmental samples for lead isotopes. Projects have included groundwater and surface water mixing using Pb isotopes, tracing and identifying the sources of petroleum and gasoline that have contaminated aquifers, and the sources of Pb in many kinds of food products. We also use 238U/235 and 234U/238U to characterize groundwaters, surface waters, and brines.

Organic Geochemistry Laboratory

The Organic Geochemistry Laboratory supports research in geobiology and biogeochemistry. There are two GS-MS systems based on an Agilent mass selective detector and a Micromass Autospec double focusing mass spectrometer. A water Q-TOF Micro LC_MS system enable analysis of intact polar lipids and pigments. Carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen isotope analyses of bulk materials and individual organic compounds are made with a Thermo-Finnigan Delta Plus XL instrument.

ACES: Alliance for Computational Earth Science

ACES focuses on developing and deploying advanced computational technologies to address challenging problems of earth science. As a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration between MIT researchers in earth science and computer science, ACES develops applications to address a wide spectrum of questions about how planetary systems work. To answer these questions, substantial computational resources must be deployed and efficiently harnessed. Participants in ACES are engaged in both the development of novel compute environments and in their application to problems in earth science.

Synoptic Laboratory

The synoptic laboratory, sited on the 16th floor of EAPS, comprises a cluster of interconnected workstations, mass-store devices and a large hyperwall used to analyse and display synoptic data. The laboratory provides access to real-time meteorological observations, analyses and forecasts, and specialized custom diagnostics. The synoptic lab is used in both teaching and reasearch.

Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) Laboratory

Situated on the 15th floor of EAPS, the GFD laboratory houses several rotating fluid turntables used extensively in undergraduate and graduate education (eg 12.804, and 12.307.) more 

MIT Paleomagnetism Laboratory

Research in the MIT Paleomagnetism Laboratory focuses on interdisciplinary problems in planetary science, geology and geobiology. Current topics include the evolution of the Martian dynamo and climate, the nature and origin of lunar magnetism, the earliest history of Earth's magnetic field, the fossil record of magnetotactic bacteria, Neoproterozoic and Cambrian global change, and the origin of magnetization in carbonate rocks. The lab has two magnetically shielded class 10,000 clean rooms which contain a variety of equipment for measuring the magnetic records and magnetic properties of natural samples. Tha lab has a variety of magnetometers including a superconducting rock magnetometer equipped with a 200-sample automated rock magnetic and degaussing system and the unique Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID) Microscope which makes high resolution (100-micron spatial resolution) magnetic field maps of thin sections.

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