Measuring stable isotopes

Isotope ratio mass spectrometers (IRMS) are instruments that measure R (the ratio between two isotopes) to obtain d (the isotope ratio relative to a standard) and D (discrimination). Substances introduced as gases are bombarded with electrons to create ions.  These ions are accelerated through a vacuum tube and subjected to a magnetic field that causes ions of different mass to be deflected at slightly different trajectories. Detectors (Faraday cups) are precisely placed at each trajectory to capture ions of each expected mass. The resulting value is compared to the value obtained for the standard gas, and used to calculate d.

Click here for more information about the Center for Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry (CSIB) at UC Berkeley and the Stable Isotope Ratio Facility for Environmental Research (SIRFER) at the University of Utah.


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