Geochemistry Laboratory

Geochemistry Lab logo

Geochemistry Laboratory operates as a core-facility to provide analytical services and advice on analytical problems to the researchers within the University as well as External Users (Academic, Government, and Industry) on cost recovery basis. We also develop new methods customized for challenging analytical problems and carry out research & development projects, to continually improve the capabilities of existing analytical techniques and instrumentation. The laboratories are equipped with state of the art analytical instrumentation, namely for: Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and Emission Spectrometry (ICP-ES), Laser Ablation ICP-MS, Microwave Plasma Emission Spectrometry (MP-ES), Ion Chromatography, Sample Preparation Equipment, Microwave Digestion and Wet-Chemistry, and clean room facilities.

Contact information

Manager/Faculty Scientist
Dr. Nimal De Silva
Tel.: 613-562-5800, ext. 6843

Senior Technician
Ms. Smita Mohanty
Tel.: 613-562-5800, ext. 2990

Laser Ablation ICPMS – Scientist
Dr. Samuel Morfin


  • Prof. Tom Al
  • Prof. Jonathan O’Neil


The Geochemistry Laboratory
Advanced Research Complex, room 435
University of Ottawa
25 Templeton Street, Ottawa
Ontario, Canada K1N 6N5

Primary Functions

  • Analytical Services/Consultation
  • Teaching and training researchers and students with hands-on instrument operation and analytical methodologies
  • Analytical Research: New Instrumentation and Method Development in Plasma Emission and Mass Spectrometric techniques, and Application of Chemometry for Improvement of data quality.
View of the inside of the ICP-ES Laboratory

ICP-ES Laboratory

View of the inside of the ICP-MS Laboratory

ICP-MS Laboratory


  • Agilent 8800QQQ Triple Quadrupole ICPMS Spectromete
  • Thermo ELEMENT - XR ICPMS High Resolution Spectrometer
  • Agilent 7700 ICPMS Spectrometer + Analyte G2 Laser Ablation System
  • Agilent 5110 Synchronous Dual View ICP Emission Spectrometer
  • Agilent VISTA ICP Emission Spectrometer
  • Agilent Microwave Plasma (MP-ES) Spectrometer
  • DIONEX - Ion Chromatograph
  • CEM MARS – Microwave Digestion System
  • Anton Parr – Multiwave 7000 Microwave Digestion System

Analytical Techniques and Services

Analytical Techniques

Atomic spectrometric techniques based on high temperature sources are among the most powerful tools for multi-element analysis of virtually any type of material at percent to ultra-trace levels. Samples are introduced typically as an aerosol of fine droplets or dry particulates into a suitable high temperature source (generally a flame or plasma) for atomization, excitation, and ionization of analyte atoms which emit radiation at characteristic wavelengths. The most commonly used source is the Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP), where argon gas is heated to a high temperature by electromagnetic induction at radio-frequency.

Image of Atomic spectrometric techniques based on high temperature sources
Cycle of Atomic spectrometric techniques based on high temperature sources



Inductively Coupled Plasma Emission Spectrometry (ICP-ES)

Light emitted at characteristic wavelengths by the excited atoms/ions in the plasma is measured with a suitable optical detector, where the measured light intensity is directly proportional to the concentration of the analyte.

Microwave Plasma Emission Spectrometry (MP-ES)

A complimentary optical spectrometric technique is Microwave Plasma Emission Spectrometry (MP-ES), where nitrogen gas is heated to form the plasma using microwave energy.

Agilent 4200 MP-ES

Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)

Analyte ions generated in the ICP are extracted into a mass spectrometer, which separates and measure them quantitatively according to the mass/charge ratio.  ICP-MS is capable of detecting metals and several non-metals at concentrations as low as one part in 1015 (part per quadrillion, ppq) on non-interfered low-background isotopes.

Compared to atomic absorption spectroscopy, ICP-MS has greater speed, precision, ultra-high sensitivity and simultaneous multi-element capability. However, compared with other types of mass spectrometry, such as thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) and glow discharge mass spectrometry (GD-MS), ICP-MS can be subjected to spectral interferences which can be due to the presence of isobaric or polyatomic ions.  In recent years, two approaches have been developed to resolve, minimize, or eliminate such interferences from isobaric atomic and polyatomic ions:

  • Chemical resolution based on gas phase collision/ion-chemistry.
  • Spectral resolution using high resolution mass spectrometers.


Laser Ablation-ICP-MS System (Photon Machine Analyte G2 – Agilent 7700)

LA-ICP-MS is a powerful analytical tool that enables highly sensitive elemental and isotopic analysis of solid samples directly without having to go through sample dissolution. It allows spatially resolved measurements of surfaces and depth profiling at micron levels.

Ion Chromatography

Ion chromatography is a chromatographic process that separates ions and polar molecules based on their differential affinity to an ion exchanger. It works on almost any kind of charged molecule—including large proteins, small nucleotides, and amino acids. The two types of ion chromatography are anion-exchange and cation-exchange.

Sample Preparation with Microwave Digestion

Microwave digestion enables rapid dissolution of difficult samples with low blanks, which is an important consideration when the quality of the sample preparation becomes the dominant factor with ultrasensitive measurement systems.

Anton Parr 7000


Research and Method Development

  • New Sample Introduction techniques for Direct Analysis of Solids by Plasma Spectrometry.
  • Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometry (LA-ICPMS)
  • Direct Powder Introduction – ICP ES/MS.
  • Pre-concentration of trace elements for interference-removal and sensitivity-enhancement
  • Customized analytical method development.
  • New chemometric approaches for improving data quality in instrument calibration, internal standardization, standard addition, drift correction, isotope ratio measurements, etc.
  • Mathematical approaches for resolution enhancement and for extending the dynamic range in spectrometric measurements
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