Instrument & Facilities

The University of Michigan has complete facilities for (U-Th)/He thermochronology sample preparation, grain picking, and analysis. Expand the tabs below to read more about the capabilities available in our rock crushing lab, mineral separation facility, Alphachron Helium Lab, and the Keck Elemental Geochemistry Lab.
Sample Processing

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences has a wide range of equipment for geologic sample preparation. Facilities include a rock cutting lab with an array of oil- and water-cooled rock saws, thin section saws, and polishing wheels, as well as a rock crushing facility with a jaw crusher, Bico disc mill, shatterbox, and Ro-Tap sieve shaker. A Wig-L-Bug is also available in the department.

Mineral Separation

The Mineral Separation Laboratory is undergoing a complete renovation and will be re-opened in January, 2016. It will have a new Laboratory Wilfley Concentrating table, a Frantz isodynamic magnetic separator, and fume hood space for heavy liquid separation and apatite, zircon, sphene and monazite dissolution. We also have a separate microscopy lab for mineral picking and packaging. This lab has a Leica MZ16 stereo zoom microscope and Nikon stereo zoom microscope, both with digital cameras for grain selection and measurement, and a Leitz petrographic microscope for thin section analysis.

(U-Th)/He Analysis

A laboratory for low-temperature (U-Th)/He thermochronology was established in 2013. This facility includes an Alphachron Helium Instrument for the measurement of 4He produced by the radioactive decay of the elements U, Th, and Sm in target minerals such as apatite, zircon, monazite, and sphene. The closure temperature of this thermochronologic system is as low as ~70°C in apatite, making it ideal for application in tectonic and geomorphic studies. The instrument consists of a diode laser extraction system and quadrupole mass spectrometer, and is fully automated for the analysis of up to 25 mineral grains in each run.

Diffusion Experiments

A diffusion cell was added to our Alphachron Instrument in the fall of 2016. This addition allows us to perform diffusion experiments on individual mineral grains, while continuing routine (U-Th)/He analysis from the laser chamber. The diffusion cell is heated by a halogen lightbulb, and uses a thermocouple to accurately maintain temperatures over the range from 40°C to 750°C.

ICP-MS Mass Spectrometry

The Keck Elemental Geochemistry Laboratory has recently received funding from NSF Instrumentation and Facilities to purchase a new Element XR ICP-MS as well as a new iCAP Q ICP-MS. These instruments will provide a state-of-the-art mass spectrometric facility for measuring U, Th, and Sm for low-temperature thermochronology. We anticipate these instruments coming on-line in the first half of 2016.

Lab Manager Amanda Maslyn at the controls of the Alphachron Helium Instrument.