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Time-of-flight ICP-MS laser ablation zircon geochronology: Assessment and comparison against quadrupole ICP-MS

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 23:44 authored by Thompson, JM, Leonid Danyushevsky, Borovinskaya, O, Tanner, M
This study presents U–Pb isotopic results from the mineral zircon measured by nanosecond laser ablation coupled to either a time-of-flight inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), a quadrupole ICP-MS or both via a split stream arrangement. Results show both ICP-MS types produce similar levels of precision and accuracy for most U–Pb ages in the mineral zircon. The time-of-flight ICP-MS however shows slight non-linearity at high detector counts (> 7000 for 238U) producing a bias in zircon U–Pb ages from published values outside analytical uncertainty. Use of 235U instead of 238U is shown to resolve the inaccuracy in the U–Pb age at the expense of analytical precision due to lower abundance of 235U. Trace element concentrations also measured along with U–Pb isotope data in zircon show the time-of-flight ICP-MS to provide similar accuracy and precision as the quadrupole ICP-MS, except for isotopes in regions around high intensity major element peaks (e.g. Zr) where accuracy and levels of detection of the time-of-flight ICP-MS are matrix dependent relative to the quadrupole ICP-MS. A comparison is made between the analytical capabilities of the time-of-flight ICP-MS and the quadrupole ICP-MS highlighting some advantages and disadvantages of the time-of-flight technology for zircon U–Pb geochronology.


Australian Research Council

AMIRA International Ltd

BHP Billiton Ltd

Newcrest Mining Limited


Publication title

Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry










School of Natural Sciences


Royal Soc Chemistry

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