During the past twenty years, the development and widespread proliferation of modern mass spectrometers has made the task of measuring the masses and relative concentrations of atoms and molecules at high precision (from both organic and inorganic compounds) a reality at most major research institutions throughout the United States. The availability of modern mass spectrometers offers researchers access to a wealth of new scientific knowledge, with much of it based on subtle variations in composition caused by physical and chemical mechanisms in nature. In recognition of this need, the Smithsonian Institutionís Office of the Undersecretary for Science (OUSS), in collaboration with the Museum Conservation Institute, formed a Mass Spectrometry Advisory Panel tasked with the goal of identification, acquisition, and development of scientific instrumentation that will meet the research requirements of the broadest segment of SI researchers and their visiting students.
In early discussions with OUSS, MCI, and the
Advisory Panel, it was recognized that the most critical and immediate need was
a pan-institutional laboratory capable of high-precision measurements of
isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur (C, N, O, H, S).
These elements naturally occur as two or more stable (non-radioactive)
isotopes. Isotopic variations arising from mass-dependent isotopic
fractionation in organic and inorganic substances can be used to trace the
pathways and forms that these key elements take as they are transferred and
cycled within biological and geochemical systems. Measurements of stable
isotope ratios in soils and plant samples are used to reconstruct past climates
and vegetation, evaluate physiological responses of wild and domesticated
plants (and animals), characterize energy and material transfers and
transformations among plant, animal, and microbial components of ecosystems,
and understand atmosphere-biosphere interactions. Stable isotopes record
information on biological and physical processes operating across space and
time, and thus are useful in integrative studies that span disciplines and
levels of biological organization. Rapid and precise stable isotope analysis of
solid, liquid, and gaseous materials are fundamental to studies in physiology,
ecology, hydrology, earth and atmospheric sciences, archaeology, art history,
Funding to support this initiative was obtained via FY 2007 year-end funding and MCI, with support from OUSS, took the lead in setting set up a central laboratory with two stable isotope ratio mass spectrometers and associated peripherals. A contractor was hired in May 2008 to oversee the installation and operation of the instruments. Both instruments were installed in June 2008. A full time scientist was subsequently hired by MCI in November 2008 to oversee day-to-day operation of the laboratory.
information regarding the Smithsonian Institution MCI
Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry Facility please contact Christine France.
Shipping Address - 4210 Silver Hill Road, Suitland, Maryland 20746 Laboratory Phone - 301.238.1262