Multicollector isotope ratio mass spectrometry: New frontiers in soil microbiology and biogeochemistry

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: School of Biological Sciences


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Technical Summary

We seek BBSRC support for the purchase of a SerCon multicollector isotope ratio mass spectrometer (MC-IRMS) and elemental analyser (EA-G) to advance multidisciplinary studies in soil microbiology and biogeochemistry and to improve stable isotope facilities within the College of Life Sciences and Medicine. This will be the first system of its kind in the UK, reflecting a true collaboration in method development with our external sponsor, opening up new and exciting research opportunities. The MC-IRMS will increase our analytical capacity up to mass 70, enabling six masses to be detected simultaneously, and will form an integral part of current and future BBSRC-funded research programmes. The capability of the MC-IRMS will be extended through the use of the EA-G and interfacing with our existing ANCA TGII gas prep module facilitating analysis of solid, liquid and gas samples at both enriched and natural abundance levels of low concentration and over a wider range of masses, simultaneously, than is currently possible. The MC-IRMS will be used to develop research in three key areas: (1) New techniques to determine sources of N2O and quantify N2 emissions from soils: Isotopomers in N2O to distinguish between N2O producing processes in soils at both enrichment and natural abundance levels. Use of N2-to-Ar ratio to quantify N2 emissions from soils. (2) Stable isotope signatures to distinguish between C, N and O sources: Determining the aquifer carbon source driving the reduction of iron (III) and arsenate in sediments in S E Asia. (3) Multielement stable isotope probing of microbial biomarkers including nucleic acids: Assessing the activity of functional genes in a biogeochemical context, extending to stable isotope probing with N and S as well as C. Linking biodiversity with function. The proposed research is within the remit of several BBSRC priority areas including integrative behaviour of the soil-plant system (AF), biodiversity utilisation and conservation in agroecosystems (AF), foodborne pathogens and the environment (AF) and soil and rhizosphere biology (PMS). The MC-IRMS will form an integral part of current and future BBSRC research programmes. The applicants currently hold BBSRC research grants in excess of £1.1 million. The equipment requested will accelerate progress in these projects, enhance development of new research directions and allow us to address outstanding questions and develop new frontiers in the application of stable isotopes to soil microbiology and biogeochemistry.


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Description First mass spectrometer in UK for measurement of position of 15N in N2O molecule from one sample injection. This provides advance in ability to determine microbial processes producing N2O in situ, and particularly beneficial in unfertilised systems.
Exploitation Route Academic uptake.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Multicollector isotope ratio mass spectrometer used as prototype by collaborator Sercon Ltd. Academic impact.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic