St Andrews Isotope Group (STAiG)

STAiG lab

STAiG uses high precision measurements of isotope ratios to investigate phenomena across the geo and planetary sciences. The group's broad team of researchers are interested in identifying, tracing, and timing processes in systems ranging from the formation of the solar system, through planetary differentiation and terrestrial volcanism, to ocean circulation, climate, and the biosphere.

  • More specifically, the group investigates and aims to understand fundamental questions including: 
  • What was the birth environment of the Sun like?
  • How do solar systems form? Is ours special or can we expect the conditions for life to be common in exoplanetary systems?
  • How do rocky planets form? 
  • When and under what conditions did life emerge and evolve?
  • How have Earth’s atmosphere and oceans changed over the last 4 billion years?
  • How do we recognize life on other planets?
  • What were past atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and how did those impact on climate?
  • What is the volcanic forcing of climate?
  • What caused the Earth to transition into and out of ice ages? 

STAiG's research is underpinned by a suite of cutting-edge facilities listed below.  These allow us to make high precision measurements of elemental and isotopic compositions across the periodic table on a wide variety of sample types (waters, minerals, tissue, gases, ice…). We collaborate with a wide range of academic and industrial partners.

Plasma Source Mass Spectrometry

  • two multi-collector inductively-coupled-plasma mass spectrometers (MC-ICPMS), including Nu Plasma 1 and Thermo Neptune Plus with optional coupled gas chromatograph 
  • a Nu Plasma Sapphire Collision cell multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (CC-MC-ICPMS)
  • an Agilent 7500a ICPMS and an Agilent 8900 Triple Quad combining two quadrupole mass-filters with a reaction gas collision cell.
  • a Thermo iCAP 6300 ICP-OES
  • an Applied Spectra Resolution SE Excimer laser ablation system and a New Wave Research UP193HE Deep-UV (193 nm) Excimer laser ablation system
  • two state-of-the-art Class 100 metal-free clean rooms

Gas Source Mass Spectrometry

  • Two Thermo MAT253 IRMS, one for quadruple sulfur isotope analyses and one for major carbon, nitrogen and sulfur isotopes.
  • An elemental analyser (EA IsoLink) for sample combustion to CO2, N2 and SO2 gas.
  • A fluorination line for conversion of sulfur compounds into SF6 gas by Curie Point pyrolysis.
  • A Delta Plus XP IRMS in continuous-flow mode with a ConFlo III
  • A Gasbench II with a PreCon for analyses of inorganic carbon isotopes in carbonates and water samples.
  • A thermal conversion elemental analyser (TC/EA) for analyses of oxygen and nitrogen isotopes by pyrolysis.
  • A Thermo GC-MS (Trace 1310 - ISQ) for quantitative characterisation of volatile organic compounds and atmospheric gases.
  • A Thermo Trace Ultra GC for determination of CO2, N2O and CH4 in natural samples
  • A lightning discharge apparatus for simulating gas phase reactions in variable atmospheres
  • A UV-VIS spectrophotometer (Thermo Evolution) for quantification of various organic and inorganic dissolved species

If you’re interesting in using our facilities, please get in touch with one of the staff members listed below. 

Key STAiG members

images of STAiG lab