CFI grant invests in exploration and protection of Canada’s natural resources

Thursday, January 9, 2014

WATERLOO, Ont – The Canada Foundation for Innovation’s $480,000 investment in the latest generation mass spectrometers will help make the Faculty of Science at the University of Waterloo an international leader in environment and energy research.

Project leader Prof. Brian Kendall from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences received the funding to support a multi-disciplinary research program on mineral and energy exploration and the protection of Canada’s environment. Profs. Lingling Wu and Carl Guilmette, also from Earth and Environmental Sciences, are co-investigators on the project.

“This funding will help elevate Canada’s status as a leading scientific nation that uses the latest technology and scientific research directions”, said Kendall.

The grant is part of a 1.5 million-dollar initiative to establish a cutting-edge mass spectrometry facility and a strong research program in solid Earth geochemistry and environmental biogeochemistry at Waterloo. 

At the centre of this effort are the new state-of-the-art mass spectrometers. The Agilent 8800 triple quadrupole inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (QQQ-ICP-MS) is the first of its kind and measures multiple elements simultaneously at the part-per-trillion level. The NuPlasma II multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS) is well-suited for isotopic analysis of a wide variety of elements in minerals, rocks, petroleum, and waters.

The University of Waterloo will be the first institution in southwestern Ontario to have both of these instruments and one of the only labs worldwide that applies both metal isotope geochemistry and geochronology towards a better understanding of the formation of natural resource deposits.

Additionally, the team will receive a Photon Machines ANALYTE G2 excimer laser ablation system that can be used with either mass spectrometer for direct in situ isotope or element analyses of mineral and rock samples.

The multi-disciplinary team of scientists will use these tools to investigate five areas of research: 1) investigate if the isotopic composition of metals can be used to understand oil generation and migration, 2) use metal isotopes to better understand the formation of ore deposits and thus improve exploration efforts; 3) understand the relationship between the collision and suturing of continental tectonic plates and ore mineralization; 4) define how chemical reactions of iron affect the movement of chromium, an environmental contaminant, in soil, groundwater and surface water; and 5) reconstruct the changes in oxygen concentration of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans through time and the impact of these changes on the evolution of life and the formation of natural resource deposits.

The new facility equipped with the latest mass spectrometer technologies will help grow and strengthen scientific research collaborations as it has already attracted significant interest at both the national and international levels.