|New UNC device can measure composition of everything from corals to mosquito blood|
|Tuesday, October 04, 2011|
A new scientific instrument will enable University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers to analyze everything from corals and rocks to human teeth and the blood of mosquitoes.
The National Science Foundation’s major research instrumentation program has granted UNC $410,000 to acquire a device called an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer. It features a laser system that allows direct sampling of most materials on earth, with only minimal sample preparation. The high-resolution mass spectrometer will be able to measure elemental and isotopic compositions of substances at concentrations of less than one in a billion and at a resolution of less than a fraction of a millimeter.
The foundation’s instrumentation program encourages new knowledge and discoveries by empowering scientists and engineers with state-of-the-art research equipment.
Faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate and undergraduate students will be able to use the spectrometer to conduct earth science, oceanographic, climate change, biological, public health, archaeological and forensic research. Non- UNC researchers will also be able to use it.
“This will establish UNC as a top facility of high-resolution mass spectrometry in the southeastern United States,” said Justin Ries, assistant professor of marine sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator on the grant proposal.
Brent McKee, professor and chair of marine sciences, Allen Glazner, professor and chair of geological sciences, and Drew Coleman, professor of geological sciences, are co-principal investigators. Other UNC units involved include marine sciences, geological sciences, chemistry, anthropology, environmental science and engineering, the Institute of Marine Sciences, and the schools of dentistry and public health.
The mass spectrometer is expected to be in operation sometime next year. Ries will use it to make climate reconstructions by examining changes in the chemical composition of coral skeletons from offshore Belize. For a previous news release and photos related to this work, visit http://uncnews.unc.edu/content/view/4317/107/.
College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093,