Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS)
Jeff Vervoort, Washington State University
What is Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS)
Fundamental Principles of Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS)
Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) Instrumentation - How Does It Work?
For terrestrial systems, common applications in geochronology and tracer Studies involve the following radiometric systems
- U series disequilibrium
- Sr, Nd, Hf, Os in seawater
In cosmochemical systems, the measurement of isotopic compositions is primarily as tracers of nucleosynthetic processes and constraining the evolution of the solar system. This involves measurement of the systems noted above, but also includes the decay of short lived radionuclides, as observed principally in meteorites. In addition to the systems noted above, systems of cosmochemical interest include:
Non-radiogenic (stable) isotope-isotope ratios are typically used to characterize exchange processes, track reservoir interactions, and evaluate biologic and kinetic processes:
Strengths and Limitations of Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS)?
- the chemical and physical stability of the measurement environment, which lead to highly precise measurements,
- the ability to ionize and evaporate samples at different temperatures by using multiple filament assemblies,
- lower and more consistent average mass fractionation,
- the use of single element solutions to eliminate isobaric interferences,
- production of ions with a restricted range of energies (eliminates need for energy filter),
- easily automated operation, and
- near 100% transmission of ions from source to collector.
- not all elements are easily ionized, which restricts applications to elements with low ionization potentials;
- ionization is not equally efficient for all elements, and is generally less than 1%;
- mass fractionation continually changes during analysis;
- elementally pure solutions are required to avoid isobaric interferences, which requires extensive preparation; and
- accurate mass fractionation correction is limited to elements with 3 or more isotopes of which at least 2 are stable.
User's Guide - Sample Collection and Preparation
Data Collection, Results and Presentation
The following literature can be used to further explore Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS)
For more information about Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) follow the links below.
- Thermal Ionization- this page, from the University of Arizona SAHRA program, offers a brief description of thermal ionization.
- Geochemistry of the World Wide Web- this site, from Cornell University, provides links to geochemistry-related websites, including professional societies, journals, on-line geochemical data, geochemical analytical standards, government and university laboratories, and cosmochemistry-, astronomy-, and planetology-related sites.
- Mass Spectrometry Wiki- this Wiki site provides a brief description of thermal ionization.
- Thermo Scientific Corporation- this website provides details regarding the perchase of a Triton thermal ionization ratio MS with multicollector.
Teaching Activities and Resources
Teaching activities, labs, and resources pertaining to Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS).
- Application of Sr Isotopic Data to Tuolumne Intrusive Series, Sierra Nevada, CA - In this problem set students are given Rb/Sr and 87Sr/86Sr data for whole rock and mineral samples from three granitic intrusions in the Sierra Nevada. They use these data (in EXCEL) to calculate isochron ages and initial ages for the intrusions and then interpret their results. This problem is intended to teach some spreadsheet skills (linear regressions, graphing) as well as having them think about the use of radiogenic isotopes.
- Rb-Sr isotope in-class exercise - This set of problems involves calculations of changes in radiogenic isotope ratios. It requires students to understand the concept of an isochron and how isotope ratios change (or do not change) during magma mixing and crystal fractionation.