Innovations in laboratory technology and geochemical exploration techniques.

CIM Edmonton 2008
Eric L Hoffman,
Abstract Analytical technology has advanced considerably over the last 10 years. Multielement capabilities for 60+ elements at the ultratrace level (ppb to ppm levels) performed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP/MS) has now become routine and low cost at most modern contract laboratories. Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy analytical technology has now become more robust and stable with the advent of new generations of instrumentation from equipment suppliers.
X-ray fluorescence spectrometers (XRF) have become more sensitive with advances in instrumentation and software. Instrumental neutron activation (INAA) continues to play an important role in being able to do 35+ elements nondestructively. Atomic Absorption technology has also advanced allowing better stability and some limited multielement capabilities. Perenially a problem, has been the geologists understanding that it is not only the analytical method but the digestion used in advance of the elemental detection that is of utmost importance in interpreting results. Partial aqua regia digestions, four acid digestion which are more total and fusions which are total continues to be a problem not widely understood at the field geologist level.
New High resolution ICP/MS technology has allowed unrivalled detection limits for elements like Au and the PGE allowing the development of analytical methodology for waters and vegetation previously unheard of.
Multicollector ICP/MS technology has allowed for rapid isotope ratio determinations for multiple elements. Laser ablation/High Resolution ICP/MS or MC-ICP/MS allows spatial analysis of trace elements and isotopic ratios. Gas chromatography/ mass spectroscopy has allowed the development of analytical methodologies like Soil Gas Hydrocarbons (SGH) for detecting deeply buried mineralization using soil samples. Selective Extractions using techniques like Enzyme Leach, MMI, sodium pyrophosphate, sodium acetate and newer leaches like the Bioleach are now becoming better understood and continue to play an important role in using soil geochemistry to help detect deeply buried mineralization. A number of examples of these technologies will be discussed.
Keywords: analytical, ICP, XRF, HR/ICP/MS, soil gas hydrocarbons, INAA, Laser ablation/ICP/MS, Selective extractions, MC/ICP/MS, ICP/MS
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