Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research (QFIR)

Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
What the facility does

Isotope and chemical research and analysis on complex materials.

Areas of expertise

QFIR has a complete suite of advanced isotope and chemical technologies and is supported by a research team with a combined experience spanning over 50 years in the areas of exploration, environment, biology, chemistry, geography, forensics and authentication methods. QFIR provides interdisciplinary research results for university, government, industry and private agencies on a global basis.

Research services
  • Isotopic analyses of stable isotopes (H, C, N, O and S) and radiogenic isotopes,
  • Elemental chemical compositions based on isotopic analyses in natural and synthetic materials of solids, liquids and gases,
  • Sample purification and separation, petrological analyses,
  • In situ laser-ablation analysis of chemical and isotopic compositions,
  • Both in-house and on-site consultations,
  • Workshops and both practical and classroom courses in all advanced isotope techniques,
  • Applications in isotope mass spectrometer technology and its peripherals, including nanosecond and femtosecond laser-ablation instrumentation
Sectors of application
  • Agriculture, animal science and food
  • Chemical industries
  • Clean technology
  • Defence and security industries
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Environmental technologies and related services
  • Fisheries and aquaculture
  • Forestry and forest-based industries
  • Manufacturing and processing
  • Mining, minerals and metals
  • Ocean industries
  • Utilities

Specialized lab



Electron Beam


MLA 650 FEG ESEM with MLA capabilities, JXA-8230 automated electron microprobe, Panalytical X’pert Pro Powder diffractometer

The ESEM is a high-throughput field emission gun with environmental scanning electron capabilities, fast X-ray analysis and MLA capabilities for quantifying complex mixtures of minerals. It can be used to characterize and image geological and biological samples under low to high vacuum. The high-resolution detection microprobe provides in situ analysis of the chemical composition of materials, including high-resolution element mapping. The X-ray Diffraction Laboratory Panalytical X’pert Pro Powder diffractometer provides multi-phase mineral identification and quantification and is associated with supporting labs for mineral separation, including clay minerals.


Finnigan MAT ELEMENT 1 HR-ICP-MS, Thermo Scientific ELEMENT 2 XR HR-ICP-MS

Our Thermo Scientific ELEMENT instruments can resolve mass differences of 0.0001, which enables the analysis of all elements, including Li, B, C, K, Cl, Fe, As, Se, Au and U


Thermo Finnigan Neptune

A high-resolution MC-ICP-MS that is ideally suited for measurement of isotope ratios of most elements



This is one of the most productive quadruple ICP-MS available for routine and high-performance analytical work, particularly in situ LA-ICPMS analyses


Thermo Scientific iCAP 6500 ICP-OES

The high-efficiency optical design of the iCAP 6500 ICP-OES enables simultaneous analysis of 66 elements with detection limits at less than a few ppb. The wavelength coverage (166nm to 847nm) spans from C to U and a resolution minimum of 7ppm at 200nm.


Laser-ablation systems

NMR femtosecond laser-ablation system, NWR-193 laser-ablation system and NWR-213 Nd:YAG laser-ablation system can be coupled with any of the ICP-MS instruments for in situ analysis, element mapping and isotopic analysis

Stable Isotope Lab

Two DELTAplusXP stable isotope ratio mass spectrometers (IRMS)

This generation of IRMS technology is a universal tool for D/H, 13C/12C and 15N/14N, 18O/16O and 34S/32S determination in both dual-inlet and continuous-flow modes. A wide range of detector configurations allows for the development of novel techniques.


GasBench II, EA and TC/EA peripherals

Universal on-line gas preparation and introduction system for IRMS. A tool for generating high-precision on-line isotope ratio determination of gas species, waters and carbonates. The GasBench II combines dual-inlet precision and accuracy with the high-throughput of continuous-flow technology. The various applications include, but are not limited to, water equilibration with CO2 for 18O/ 16O, carbonate13C/12C and 18O/16O, dissolved inorganic carbon 13C/12C, determination of 13C/ 12C of CO2 and 15N/14N in air. The TC/EA high-temperature conversion allows for direct continuous-flow determination of 18O/16O and D/H in minerals and biological materials enhancing the capabilities of the two existing QFIR conventional EAs that currently permit on-line isotope ratio analysis of organic bulk samples for 13C/12C, 15N/14N and 34S/ 32S.


Trace Gas Chromatograph

In addition to both stand-alone and continuous-flow GC operation of present technology, the Trace GC expands capabilities from the existing GC/C/TC/IRMS. It incorporates compound specific isotopic analysis from13C/12C and 15N/14N to include 18O/16O and D/H.


Finnigan MAT 252 IRMS

Stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer coupled to the MAT 252 using continuous-flow technology is a Hewlett-Packard HP5890 Series II Gas Chromatograph and a Carlo Erba Elemental Analyzer: NCS 2500.


Hewlett-Packard HP5890 Series II Gas Chromatograph interfaced to a CDS Pyroprobe 5000 pyrolyser

Similar to the Trace Gas Chromatograph, the HP can function in stand-alone and continuous-flow GC operation but is also interfaced for GC/C/IRMS (gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometer) of hydrocarbons. It incorporates compound-specific isotopic analysis (CSIA) for13C/12C. The Pyroprobe 5000 allows measurement of CSIA for 13C/12C in fluid inclusions and solid materials.


Thermo Finnigan HDevice

This peripheral is used to determine the D/H ratio for water samples (brines and fresh waters). A column containing Cr powder is heated to 850°C to reduce water to hydrogen gas. The HDevice is coupled to the dual inlet on any of the IRMS instruments in the Stable Isotope Lab and is designed to analyze a small volume of sample (1 uL).


Silicate extraction line

Oxygen isotope analyses of silicate and oxide minerals and of whole rock samples are conducted using the BrF5 extraction method. Approximately 5 mg of finely ground sample are loaded into Ni reaction tubes and reacted with BrF5at 575°C overnight. The extracted oxygen is normally converted to CO2 with a heated graphite rod, and the CO2 is then analyzed off-line using a Finnigan MAT 252. In addition, O2 from the extraction of silicates, oxides, nitrates and sulphates can be collected and analyzed for 17O/16O ratios.


Carbonate extraction line

The carbonate extraction line is used to extract CO2 from carbonates for specialized analyses of mixtures and for Mg-Fe carbonates.


Thermo Finnigan MAT 253 IRMS

MAT 235 with eight-cup configuration allows the simultaneous measurement of masses of six isotopologues (44, 45, 46, 47, 48 and 49) of CO2. The principal purpose of this high-sensitivity instrument is to measure Δ47 values of carbonates. It also measures δ13C, δ18O, δ15N and δDvalues of different materials using both dual-inlet and continuous-flow modes.

Microbiology Lab

Orbital shaker, electronic autoclaver

Capabilities under sterilized conditions to grow Synechococcus and other bacteria to simulate ocean conditions

Clean Lab

Class 100 clean laboratory

A Class 100 clean laboratory is available in the geology department for preparation of samples for measurement by the ELEMENT HR-ICP-MS and Neptune MC-ICP-MS. The low detection limits of the ELEMENT and the precision of isotope ratio measurements using the Neptune demand ultraclean conditions during sample preparation to avoid contamination. Facilities include column chromatography for element separations and purification and distillation of ultraclean acids and other reagents.


Portable Infrared Mineral Analyzer

Portable Infrared Mineral Analyzer measures the reflectance at wavelengths from 1300nm to 2500nm with a spectral sampling interval of 2nm. The non-destructive in situ infrared spectroscopy can detect all common clay minerals as well as phosphates, carbonates, zeolites and sulphates in rocks and drill core.

SelFrag Lab, Whole Rock Receiving and Preparation Lab, Clay Separation Lab


Selectively fragments drill core and whole samples into monominerallic components using high-voltage electrical discharges of up to 200 kV. Rock-crushing, sawing and sample-preparation equipment, including clay separation technology and prep.


LECO Renaissance inductively coupled plasma time-of-flight mass spectrometer

The TOF system has the capability to measure transient signals and can simultaneously monitor up to 90 isotopes. This instrument has proven useful for application in low-volume solution samples and single-shot laser-ablation exploration research analyses that are unattainable by conventional ICP-MS technology.

  • BV Labs
  • Cameco Corp.
  • Uravan Minerals
  • Rio Tinto Minerals Inc.
  • ActLabs
  • AngloAmerican plc
  • ALS Minerals
  • Barrick Mining
  • Sask. Potash Corp.
  • Mosaic Potash
  • Hemmera Corp.
  • GeoTotal Consulting
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Colin Dunn Consulting
  • Isomass
  • ThermoFisher
  • Advances in Stable Isotope Techniques and Applications
  • Maxxam Analytics
  • University Kansas
  • McGill University
  • The University of British Columbia
  • University of Manitoba
  • Western University
  • University of New Brunswick
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • Memorial University
  • Laurentian University
  • Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Institut national de la recherche scientifique (Montréal)
  • Vanderbilt University (AEGIS Sciences Corp.)
  • University Sains Malaysia
  • University of Chile
  • South Korean Coast Guard
  • South Korean Agriculture Agency
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Alcohol/ Tobacco/ Firearms and Explosives Intl.
  • Olympic Analytical Labs