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    Read the following reviews on Short-Course Volume 29 published in

  • The Geochemical News (Oct. 2001), 109, by Philip E. Janney

  • Economic Geology (2002) 97,183, by W. Ian Ridley

  • Geostandards Newsletter (2002), BY Phil Robinson

  • The Analyst and JAAS (2002), 17, 16N, by P. Van Calsteren

  • Mineralium Deposita (2002) 37, 529, by Ian Ridley

  • Published in the Geochemical News 109, October 2001

    "Laser Ablation ICPMS in the Earth Sciences: Principles and Applications" Edited by Paul Sylvester, Mineralogical Association of Canada Short Course Series Vol. 29.

    Although modern geochemistry is based on a large number of analytical techniques, these comprise only a few main types and the development of a whole new class of analytical techniques is relatively infrequent. The advent of inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS) has revolutionized the measurement of elemental abundances and isotope ratios in geological and environmental materials. The coupling of ICPMS with in-situ sampling by laser ablation has yielded a new class of technique, arguably capable of combining the spacial resolution of the electron microprobe with the precision and sensitivity of the thermal ionization mass spectrometer. Laser-ablation ICPMS (LA-ICPMS) has been in development since the 1980s but it has only recently made the transition from an experimental technique confined to a few labs to a mature analytical technique that can be employed by non-specialists. The large number of quadrupole and magnetic sector ICPMS instruments sold with laser ablation systems to Earth Science departments over the past few years have vastly increased the number of potential users of this powerful method. However, LA-ICPMS is hardly foolproof and a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the technique is needed to produce high-quality data.

    To meet this need, the Mineralogical Association of Canada (MAC) had published "Laser Ablation-ICPMS in the Earth Sciences: Principles and Applications" edited by Paul J. Sylvester, the latest volume (#29) in the MAC Short Course Series. This book covers the theory and application of LA-ICPMS to the measurement of trace element abundances and isotope ratios in geological materials. Three introductory chapters cover clearly and concisely the principles of quadrupole, single and double-focussing mass spectrometry, plasma ion sources, data acquisition/calibration and laser systems. The following four chapters explore the analytical nuances of LA-ICPMS: the use of collision/reaction cells to mitigate isobaric interferences, elemental fractionation during laser ablation, depth analysis and isotope ration measurement. These seven chapters, several written by pioneers of the LA-ICPMS technique, provide a well-rounded description of the method and constitute a valuable reference for both experienced users and those new to the technique. The remaining secen chapters cover a wide range of LA-ICPMS applications to topics and materials as diverse as trace element analysis of fluid inclusions, and biological materials, as well as U-Pb and Lu-Hf isotope geochemistry/geochronology of igneous and metamorphic minerals. All of these chapters provide abundant details on instrumentation and analytical strategy and rigorously address issues of standardization and data quality, crucial for shaking the "semi-quantitative" label often attached to the LA-ICPMS technique in the past. Several chapters also include useful comparisons with data collected by competing techniques.

    As an interested bystander to the world of laser ablation-ICPMS, I was very impressed by the depth and scope of the book. The discussions of how sampling variables (e.g., laser wavelength and power, geometry of ablation cell, type and flow-rate of carrier gas) affect ablation efficiency and inter-elemental fractionation, issues vitally important to the accuracy of LA-ICPMS data but often poorly understood, are particularly well explained. All of the articles in the book have abundant schematic drawings, photographs, time-series plots and tables that add greatly to the impact and clarity of the text. some cutting-edge applications, such as the measurement of mass-dependent stable isotope variations, are only briefly mentioned, but there is only so much that can be fit into a moderate-length volume encompassing the entire LA-ICPMS technique. This book is an extraordinary value for its modest price and it will prive to be a boon for all current and potential LA-ICPMS users. Moreover, it should be read by anyone wanting to understand the basic theory of the practical complexities of how chemical and isotopic data are collected via this powerful and increasingly widely used technique.
    Review by Philip E. Janney

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    Review published in Economic Geology, 97, 2002.

    Laser-Ablation-ICPMS in the Earth Sciences. Paul Sylvester, ED. Short Course Series 29, Mineralogical Association of Canada. Price: $38 (US), $38 (CAN).

    Advances in geochemistry are often tied to technologic innovations that allow the analyst to make increasingly precise measurements within the periodic table. Analytic techniques have life cycles, some short, some long, but all eventually subsumed by faster, cheaper, more precise upstarts. A sort of technologic Darwinism prevails. Laser ablation (LA)-ICP-MS (the reader is at liberty to liberally add or subtract hyphens to the acronym) appears to be entering the early stages of maturity judging from the publication of this new book.  The book is the outcome of a short course held at Memorial University, Newfoundland, where substantive research and development of LA-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry has taken place over the last decade. Not surprisingly, the 14 chapters and three appendices covering the basics of the technique and some recent applications in the Earth Sciences, have a strong Newfoundland influence.

    The book is well balanced, with eight chapters covering theory and some practical analytical considerations and six chapters focused on specific applications of the laser ablation technique.

    Seventeen authors contributed to the book and the editor has done a good job of smoothing the stylistic ups and downs that inevitably appear with such a large number of authors. In the first chapter, Longerich and Diegor provide a review of mass spectrometry with particular emphasis on instrumentation used in conjunction with inductively coupled plasmas and lasers. This provides a succinct introduction to the common terms that newcomers to LA-ICP-MS are likely to encounter. This chapter is followed by a discussion of chemometrics (a rather nebulous term to describe the informational aspects of chemistry) by Longerich, which deals with data acquisition and reduction. The most technically advanced chapter is that of Simon Jackson, who discusses the use of Nd:YAG lasers in LA-ICP-MS. In part, the latter provides some preliminary information on the performance qualities of 266 nm and 213 nm lasers, an important contribution on a critical subject in its infancy. Gunther reviews protocols for in situ trace element analysis of fluid inclusions using a 193 nm excimer laser; an application with potential in economic geology. The use of collision and reaction cells, now standard on the latest commercial instruments to reduce or eliminate troublesome molecular interferences for some elements, is discussed by Mason. Chapter 6 discusses the thorny problem of elemental fractionation (Gunther and Hattendorf), a major unresolved concern in using this technique. Depth analysis, an area of study that may ultimately have more applications in material science than geology, is treated by Mason and Mank. The final chapter in this opening set is perhaps the most intriguing. Jackson, Pearson and Griffin provide an assessment of the potential for the use of laser ablation in high precision isotope analysis using an ICP as an ion source to a multi-collector mass spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS). The prospects for ratio measurements by direct laser sampling in previously unexplored isotope systems, e.g., Fe, Cu are intriguing.

    The chapters on applications will prove more digestible to the readers who are more interested in results rather then methodology. These chapters are limited in scope, as might be expected in a relatively new technique, but nonetheless, provide an assessment of the potential of the technique in addressing practical problems in the Earth Sciences. The chapters cover applications in U-Pb dating (Machado and Simonetti), bulk rock trace element analysis (Sylvester), igneous petrology (Norman), metamorphic petrology (Košler), economic geology (Sylvester), and environmental geology (Veinott).  These chapters clearly illustrate that the major practical advances have been made in the quantitative analysis of silicates and oxides, for the simple reason that proven calibration standards (or at least one, NIST 612) are available. Of course, the corollary is that the great potential for this technique in economic and environmental geology awaits the development of appropriate standards.

    The title of this book is somewhat misleading, in that it suggests a technique with a mature background of methodology and a solid history of practical application. In truth, the book demonstrates how much more is to be learned about an analytical technique with tremendous potential in the Earth Sciences, much of which is yet to be fulfilled. This book will no doubt prove invaluable in introductory courses in laser ablation ICP-MS, which are becoming increasing popular in academia and professional societies. The Mineralogical Association of Canada has kept the price well within the student budget, a rare accomplishment these days. It should also be required reading to laser ablation  neophytes who are considering adding this technique to their analytical arsenal. The price is sufficiently low and the information content sufficiently high that I have several copies scattered about my laser ablation laboratory for early morning perusal whilst the instrument is warming up.

    W. Ian Ridley
    Mineral Resources Team
    Denver, CO 80225

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    Laser-Ablation-ICPMS in the Earth Sciences (Principles  and Applications)

    Editor: Paul Sylvester
    Mineralogical Association of Canada Short Course Series Volume 29, St John's, Newfoundland 2001. Series Editor: Robert Raeside.

    I guess one shouldn't be misled by artwork in science but one's first impressions on glancing at the cover of this volume leads one to expect an exciting follow up. There is a colourful monazite crystal from Makalu in the Himalaya rastered by a 266-nm ND YAG laser. The purpose? A 232Th-208Pb age of 36.6 Ma. To whet one's appetite further there are spectacular photographs of pits drilled in pyrite and molybdenite by the 266nm laser and a 193-nm ArF excimer laser.

    The volume, written by most of the experts in the geological field at the present time, consists of seventeen chapters including three in an appendix. Contributors assembled in May 2001 to give a Short Course in Laser Ablation-ICPMS (LA-ICPMS), sponsored by the Mineralogical Association of Canada, at the Department of Earth Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Canada. This institution has been at the forefront of ICPMS development since the introduction of the technique to the Earth Sciences.

    The preface by chief organiser Paul Sylvester introduces the subject briefly, reviews the history, presents applications and speculates on future ones. LA-ICPMS has been an important analytical tool since the early 1990's with earth scientists being the major driving force. The reasons for this date back to the 1960's and 1970's with the huge impact of the electron microprobe and thermal ionisation-mass spectrometry (TIMS) on mineralogy, petrology and geochronology. Geology evolved from a field-based science to a dynamic combination of field observations and laboratory measurements. However, these techniques had limitations, the inability to measure a large number of elements in-situ at very low levels, a few ppm or less.  LA-ICPMS has filled this void. As a result there have been significant advances in igneous and metamorphic petrology studies. Major advances in ore petrology and environmental studies are expected soon.

    The recent development of multi-collector magnetic sector ICPMS instrumentation has given geologists the ability to make in situ measurements of isotopic composition and age of tiny crystals and parts of minerals on the scale of only a few microns. Isotopic ratios of elements such as Hf and Cu, which are difficult and time consuming to determine by TIMS, can be studied. This new data could change the way geologists view tectonic, magmatic, metamorphic and sedimentary processes.

    The first two chapters give a useful introduction to ICPMS Mass Spectrometry and Chemometrics, the data acquisition, calibration and data reduction as applied to LA-ICPMS. This is followed by the Application of Nd:YAG lasers in ICPMS. Early systems used the IR wavelength 1064 nm which is poorly absorbed by many rock-forming minerals and therefore unsuitable to laser ablation sampling. This chapter discusses the popular 266 nm laser and recent work on a 213 nm system. There are articles on fluid inclusion analysis using a 193 nm excimer laser, reduction of interferences using collision and reaction cells, one on elemental fractionation and another on depth analysis.

    Mutli-collector ICPMS coupled to a laser ablation system allows in situ isotope ratio determination. This area is still in its infancy but holds enormous potential. Recent developments and applications of Cu, Pb, Hf, Sr, Nd and Os isotope analysis are discussed and another chapter is devoted to U-Pb dating and Hf isotopic composition of zircon.

    LA-ICPMS can also be used for trace element analysis of whole rock samples either by fusing the rock itself into a glass or better by mixing it with a flux, typically lithium metaborate or lithium tetraborate, as in XRF analysis. The latter method allows rapid and complete sample digestion. An article reviews the history of this whole rock analysis by LA-ICPMS.

    For the geologist there are two comprehensive contributions on the application of LA-ICPMS to trace element geochemistry of basaltic magmas and mantle evolution and a study of metamorphic minerals and processes.

    Finally to complete a diverse and enlightening volume there is a guide to platinum group analysis of sulphides by LA-ICPMS, the use of LA-ICPMS in the Environmental Sciences and in an Appendix what to look for in buying an ICPMS and information on data reduction software.

    Henry Longerich's considerable contribution to ICPMS is highlighted by four articles in this volume, the last one entitled, 'Why owning an ICPMS is like owning a car'. Read on.

    In conclusion, this volume is a 'must' for anyone entering the field of LA-ICPMS. There is no textbook that covers this new and fast developing area of geoanalysis. Here we have a quality production with excellent information for beginners and experts alike.

    Phil Robinson             14/1/02
    School of Earth Sciences-CODES, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 

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    Review Published in The Analyst and in JAAS, june 2002
    Laser-Ablation-ICPMS in the Earth Sciences

    Edited by Paul Sylvester. Series Editor Robert Raeside. Pp. 243. Mineralogical Association of Canada. 2001. ISBN 0-921294-29-8.

    This book consists of 14 chapters and 3 appendices by a collection of authors who gave a short course with the same title in 2001 at the Memorial University Newfoundland. The analytical technique that hyphenates laser ablation to a plasma-source mass spectrometer was given a great boost by its early adoption in the mid-eighties by the research team at MUN under the leadership of Henry Longerich. It is of course no surprise that a large majority of the contributors has past or present associations with MUN, but most are currently at other laboratories worldwide using LA-ICPMS. This book has been produced incredibly quickly and in my opinion that is more important than the higher-than-average number of typos or the duplication of the first 8 pages in my copy. Speed of publication is very important in this quickly evolving field where the vast majority of the references are less then 5 years old and references from the 1980's are usually qualified as 'classic' or 'seminal'. There is no index and only one chapter with a glossary. Chapter 1 introduces the really basic basics about mass spectrometry, down to units of pressure measurement and types of vacuum pumps, but also some qualitative ion optics and detector types. Chapter 2 gives the basics about making analytical measurements and jargon of chemometrics, and lasers have hardly been mentioned so far. The various types of lasers, and how they are combined with the sample viewing optics, the ablation chamber and ablation pit geometry, are discussed in the next group of Chapters, each of which also deals with other aspects, without too much overlap. Elemental (isotopic) fractionation is first discussed in Chapter 3 but that topic which governs all attempts at quantification, does re-appear in almost every subsequent chapter. Chapter 4 deals with the Excimer laser and shows that the spatial resolution that is achievable is sufficient to analyse fluid inclusions in minerals that are as small as 10 micron in diameter. Chapter 4 also discusses the merits of He (rather than Ar) as the carrier gas in the ablation cell. Chapter 5 hardly deals with laser ablation but instead gives the first discussion by an application scientist of the workings and merits of collision and reaction cell that are inserted by some manufacturers between the plasma expansion chamber and the mass spectrometer. It is still limited to a qualitative assessment of the various variables, but at least I have the feeling that I am beginning to understand why these cells work. Chapter 6 discusses elemental fractionation as a function of laser wavelength and concludes that there are many reasons why elements (and indeed isotopes) are fractionating but that laser wavelength probably isn't the most important one. Chapter 7 discusses some of the pitfalls of analysis during drilling into a sample. Chapter 8 introduces isotope ratio measurements with laser ablation hyphenated to magnetic sector instruments and discusses mass spectrometer geometry and performance for much analysed elements like Pb, Hf, Sr, Nd, Os. Chapter 8 also touches on prospects for isotope ratio measurements of transition elements and for U-series analysis, and addresses various ways to correct for isotope fractionation. Chapter 9 is focussing on Laser Ablation for dating of zircon and some other minerals. Zircon dating is an extremely important technique in the Earth Sciences and has seen great investment in both time and equipment, in the form of ion microprobes and while Laser Ablation doesn't have the same resolution as SIMS, this is a large and important application. However, yet again, isotope fractionation is not easy to control and the need for good standards is paramount, and that is true for both LA-ICPMS and SIMS. Chapter 10 is a bit odd in that the most important advantage of LA-ICPMS, spatial resolution, is abandoned by its use to analyse fused glass dissolutions. This looks like using an available technique to do something that can be done easier without it. Chapter 11 and 12 give applications of LA-ICPMS to determine distribution coefficients between minerals, and between minerals and melt which are of great importance in geochemical modelling. Chapter 13 is again practical and looks at the analysis of Platinum-group elements in sulphides, and is largely a guide to the art of interference corrections. The final Chapter 14 essentially lists a number of applications of LA-ICPMS in environmental sciences, and points out the great potential of the analysis of natural archives with spatial and, in case of growth, time resolution. The book ends with two appendices by Henry Longerich where he gives his thoughts on the purchasing process of an ICPMS, but hardly touches Laser Ablation. Appendix III gives a brief overview about the capability of one particular type of software but offers no great new insights.

    In all, this book is essential reading for anyone who is about to explore the potential of spatially resolved analysis by ICPMS. The book is as up-to-date as can be in print, but the subject is nowhere near 'mature' and I expect new versions (or maybe something similar but with Environmental Sciences as its theme), to be superseding it within a few years.

    Dr Van Calsteren
    Department of Earth Sciences
    Open University
    Milton Keynes, UK  

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    Review Published in The Mineralium Deposita in 2002

    Paul Sylvester (ed): Laser-ablation-ICPMS in the earth sciences -principles and applications. (Short Course Series Volume 29)

    Mineralogical Association of Canada, St. John's, Newfoundland, 2001, 243 pp (ISBN 0-921294-29-8), Soft cover, S38US

    The highly hyphenated technique of laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is one of the relatively new weapons in the geochemists' arsenal of analytical weapons. It has been described as an affordable trace-element microprobe, capable of direct quantitative determinations of a wide range of elements. Despite the increasing popularity of the technique, there has been no comprehensive text covering the subject, until the publication of these papers which are the result of a short course given at Memorial University, Newfoundland. Seventeen contributions cover the principles of the technique and practical applications in the earth sciences. The editor has done a good job of balancing the theoretical and practical aspects. The chapters are written by the current experts in the field, and many were members of an illustrious analytical group at Memorial University. This is not a "cookbook"; given the number of analytical variables

    involved with this technique, and its flexibility, and I doubt if one will be written anytime soon. It provides frank and cautionary discussions of the current capabilities of the technique, and rightly implies that one requires a good deal of analytical experience to use this technique productively.

    The technique has found widespread application in igneous geochemistry, largely a function of the availability of calibration standards. The lack of standards has slowed its application in economic geology. One chapter discusses the use of the technique for the analysis of PGEs in sulfide minerals, but the potential of the technique to many economic geology studies is enormous, if unfulfilled. Neophytes and experienced analysts will find value in this publication. Several chapters will prove useful in class courses, especially as the book price is within the range of students, a rare attribute these days.

    Ian Ridley

    © 2006 Mineralogical Association of CanadaLast update 2014-02-05