With National Science Foundation support, the University of Illinois will purchase a Finnegan MAT 252 GIRMS mass spectrometer. When interfaced with automated multi-sample preparation devices, it will lead to substantial improvement in productivity over machines currently available on the Urbana campus and permit significant and fundamental advances in teaching and research in several disciplines. The MAT 252 permits unattended operation automated reaction, combustion and distillation of 50 or more sub-milligram samples and can sequentially analyze isotope ratios of elements in different gases purified from the same sample. Sample size requirements are reduced by a factor of 10 to 100 over other available instruments and what currently requires a month's work can be accomplished overnight. Because of small sample size requirements a wide range of rarely-used applications become feasible. The machine will be shared among researchers in three laboratories in the Anthropology and Geology Departments as well as the Illinois State Geological Survey. it will be housed in the latter. The machine will be of immediate use in a number of research projects. Within anthropology, these include: diet reconstruction through stable isotope analysis of bone; analysis of life history patterns through examination of incremental structures such as the striae of Retzius in tooth enamel; reconstruction of the distribution and appearance of grasslands in the Middle Miocene and their role in hominid evolution; environmental reconstruction in a number of African regions which played an important role in hominid development; and diet reconstruction of past hominids. Within geology, studies will focus on: several ongoing projects in the isotope geochemistry of sedimentary carbonates; petrographic studies of sedimentary and hydrothermally altered rocks; use of isotope ratios as tracers of groundwater flow; the process of rock-water interaction during deformation and examination of groundwater hydrology to assess nuclear waste storage, landfill and other such sites. The machine will be incorporated into a range of courses and greatly improve the quality of teaching and training resources.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Stuart Plattner
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
United States
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