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Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS)

The laboratory is equipped with a Bruker Aurora Elite ICP-MS and a 193 nm Cetac Analyte G2 excimer laser installed with a two volume HelEx2 sample cell.

Sample introduction to the ICP-MS system is setup for both liquid samples by nebulizer and solid material by laser ablation. For liquid samples contact Jürgen Kuhn (Jurgen [dot] kuhn [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se), for laser ablation contact Tomas Næraa (tomas [dot] naeraa [at] geol [dot] lu [dot] se).

LA-ICP-MS  is a powerful method for element analysis in a wide variety of solid materials (i.e. minerals, bone & teeth materials, wood, ceramics, etc.) at spatial resolutions from a few up to several hundred µm. Quantitative analyses can be obtained for most elements in the mass range 5-250 amu (practically 7Li to 238U).

At the laboratory we have a number of analytical procedures that are done routinely, which are listed below. We are always interested in developing new methods together with users of the laboratory, so please contact us to discuss your project. At the lab we use the software Iolite for data reduction.

Laser spot dimensions

The laser system has two different apertures for controlling beam size and shape. The mask aperture provides predefined circular and square spots with sizes that range from 1 to 155 µm; these spots can further be expanded through a lens which increases the size 1.6 times to a max of 258 µm. The x-y aperture provides similar sized spots but with a continous size range as squares or rectangles which can rotate 180 degrees.

Tubing and cones

We are operating with tygon tubing with an insert “squid” for signal smoothing. We have the posibillity to use ARIS (Aerosol Rapid Introduction System) by which it is possibly to resolve single pulses at sample rates up to 60 Hz, however this is not standard at our instrument and if required needs testing. We have several sets of nickel cones used for different applications based on baseline levels, e.g. U-Pb age dating and carbonates.

Sample holders and preparation

We have three different sample holders, one that holds 9 one inch mounts (2.54 cm in diameter), one that holds two to four thin-sections and three one inch mounts and one for odd size samples (10*10 cm and max 1 cm high).

In order to avoid mistakes and to obtain the best results possible, please consult the laboratory prior to your sample preparation.

In the software that controls the laser, it is possibly to work on several image layers (e.g. images from SEM or light microscope) for easier navigation on samples. Also the software is setup for creating mosaics which can also be used for easier navigation on samples. Proper image preparation will greatly help your work and optimize your analytical time at the instrument, and we are happy to help with the image preparation.

Sample holders

U-Pb isotope age dating

We have methods set up for precise U-Pb ages for a number of uranium bearing accessory minerals such as zircon, monazite, baddeleyite, rutile, titanite and apatite among others.

Routine methods or methods under development at the lab

  • Zircon U-Pb: We routinely use reference zircon GJ1 and 91500 as primary and secondary standards. Depending on zircon grain size and internal textures, spot size is routinely set between 20 and 35 µm. For such settings 206Pb/238U age precision on 91500 are around 1.5-2 % on single spot analyses.
  • Monazite U-Pb: For this method we use monazite 44069 as primary standard and we are in the process of developing several in-house reference monazites. Spot sizes are in the range of ca. 5 to 15 µm.
  • Titanite U-Pb: For this method we use MKED1, ONT2 and Khan as reference materials. Spot size range from 25 µm.
  • Baddeleyite U-Pb: This method is under development. Our test results show that we can ablate with ca. 20 µm spot size and obtain sample average 207Pb/206Pb age precision around 0.3-0.5 %.

Titanite dating

Reference materials at the lab

  • GJ1 - natural zircon for U-Pb
  • 91500 - natural zircon for U-Pb
  • 44069 - natural monazite for U-Pb + several natural in-house materials
  • MKED1 - natural titanite for U-Pb and trace elements
  • Baddeleyite (several natural in-house reference samples)

Trace element

Trace element analyses are possible for most solid materials; the main limiting factor is weather materials can be ablated with the laser beam. Another factor is the quantification of element concentrations; this can be done if matrix matched material of known concentration is available. However for many silicate materials, NIST standard glasses are sufficient for element quantification.

Routine methods

  • Silicates, e.g. garnet, zircon and epidote, calibration using NIST 610-612-614 glass and USGS basaltic glasses (e.g. BCR2G/BHVO)
  • Titanite, calibration using MKED1, ONT2 and Khan natural titanite
  • Chromite, calibration using inhouse reference material together with NIST glass

Other possible materials

  • Oxides
  • Sulfides
  • Carbonates
  • Bone, teeth materials, wood, ceramics, etc.

Reference materials at the lab

  • NIST glasses - 610, 612 and 614
  • BCR - basalt glass
  • BHVO - basalt glass
  • MASS-1 - sulfide, pressed pellet
  • MACS-3 – carbonate, pressed pellet


2D trace element maps can be done on various materials. Imaging is an area under fast development and a focus area for this laboratory.

Example 1 - TE mapping otolith (fish ear stone): The figure shows the strontium variation in CPS. Imaging done with 10 Hz pulse rate, 88x88 µm square spots, 2 J/cm2 and a scanning speed 25 µm/sec.


Otholite Mn CPS


Example 2 - mapping oolite. The figure shows a 3D presentation of trace element map with U concentration shown in color scale and Mg and Ba concentrations shown on the z-axis. Imaging done with 20x20 µm square spots, 8 Hz pulse rate, 2 J/cm2 and a scanning speed of 8 µm/sec. Trace element image setup is done with Iolite.


TE mapping Oolite





Page Manager:

Laboratory equipment



Ulf Söderlund

Head of the LA-ICPMS system

Ulf Söderlund

Laboratory manager
Jürgen Kuhn