Multi-collector Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometer Laboratory


Geological Sciences Department,
College of Arts and Sciences

Multi-collector Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometer Laboratory

(October 11, 2013)  New Mexico State University will soon see the arrival of a multi-collector inductively coupled mass spectrometer and laser sampling system in the College of Arts and Sciences, through the efforts of Frank Ramos, associate professor of geological sciences.  Ramos was recognized for his work at an NMSU Research Rally Friday, Oct. 11.  The project will be funded by a National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation grant.

Ramos is working to establish a laboratory at Gardiner Hall, where users can conduct their research using innovative techniques involving isotopes. The mass spectrometer is designed to measure isotope ratios of different elements.  “In the earth sciences, these isotopes can be used as tracers to evaluate different reservoirs, or to date rocks and minerals,” he explained. “In addition, isotopes can be used to track what happens to magmas as they move, as well as the time it takes for them to ascend to the surface. They can also be used to track migration paths of fish, animals and humans, and many other uses.”

NMSU geology professor Frank RamosThe new mass spectrometer will analyze samples more efficiently compared to the one currently available in NMSU geological sciences department. Unlike the present equipment, the new device will have the ability to measure isotopes in many materials without requiring chemically purifying mineral and melt components.  This type of information is useful in address problems in ore, volcanic and biological systems.  Professors from various departments, including biology, anthropology, conservation ecology and others, will be able to use the mass spectrometer. Students will also have the opportunity to use the equipment.

“The different uses of the equipment are only limited by the creativity of the scientists that are applying isotopes to address their research questions,” Ramos said. “It has multi-disciplinary potential.”  Unlike mass spectrometers at other universities, the new device will also include a laser sampling system.  Ramos and his colleagues will evaluate two different mass spectrometers, before purchasing and installing one at NMSU.  In addition to the $500,000 NSF grant, Ramos (who is the Michael L. Johnson endowed chair) will receive $215,000 from the College of Arts and Sciences Johnson Endowment and $300,000 from Michael and Judy Johnson.

– Article by Isabel A. Rodriguez; photo by Darren Phillips.  See more at

Project funded through a major research instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation. 

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