Scottish Universities Noble Gas Isotope Facilities

The isotopic composition of the noble gases (He, Ne, Ar, Kr and Xe) in natural systems respond to physical processes, and are consequently powerful tools for tracing the source, age and thermal history of rocks and minerals, as well as ancient and modern fluids in the Earth’s crust.  The SUERC laboratories are equipped with magnetic sector and a quadrupole mass spectrometers and an array of gas extraction techniques that allow a wide range of the noble gas isotope applications to be undertaken.


Noble gas isotope lab: Two magnetic sector mass spectrometers (Thermo Helix-SFT and ARGUS6) are used for the measurement of He, Ne and Ar isotopes in minerals.  The laboratory specializes in:

  • cosmogenic 3He and 21Ne for quantifying time scales for landscape development and dating volcanic eruptions
  • noble gas isotopes in melt inclusions in phenocrysts and xenoliths for understanding Earth composition and differentiation history
  • He isotopes in fluid inclusions in ore minerals to trace the fluid and heat source and mineralising fluids


Gas lab:  A quadrupole mass spectrometer (Prisma QMS200) and magnetic sector mass spectrometer (MAP 215-50) allow the analysis of the major gas (CO2, CH4 & heavy hydrocarbons) and noble gas isotopes in gas and water samples:

  • injected and produced gases in carbon capture and storage projects
  • natural gas accumulations such as conventional and unconventional gases, and coal-bed methane.


Helium thermochronology lab: A quadrupole mass spectrometer (Hiden HAL3F) and the SUERC ICPMS facilities are used for:

  • apatite and zircon (U+Th)/He thermochronology
  • (U+Th)/He dating of hydrothermal minerals such as hematite and geothite


For more information please contact Fin Stuart.