WSU Spectrometer Funded by Murdock Trust and NSF

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Washington State University Department of
Geology will purchase a high-powered mass spectrometer with grants it has
received from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust and the National Science
Foundation with matching funding from WSU.

According to WSU geologist John Wolff, the new $1.2 million instrument will
permit researchers to analyze isotopes and trace elements in small mineral
specimens. Information gained will advance the understanding of processes
that lead to volcanic eruptions and the origin of magmas, as well as the uplift
of mountain belts, the formation of metal ores and the movement of uranium in
the environment. Its use as a tool for fingerprinting and dating deposits could
also lead to a greater understanding of global warming.

“The LA-MC-ICPMS instrument represents the cutting edge of analytical
geochemistry, and will put the WSU GeoAnalytical Lab in the forefront of
geochemical research,” said Wolff.

The equipment, called a laser-ablation, inductively-coupled plasma-source,
multi-collector mass spectrometer, will be housed in the GeoAnalytical Lab. In
the 25 years since its founding, the lab has become an internationally
recognized center for analysis of rocks and minerals. The self-supporting
laboratory, that enhances both WSU research and graduate student training,
also provides services for geo-scientists from many units at WSU and from
around the world. It will use the new spectrometer for academic and industrial
applications in geochemistry, natural sciences, environmental sciences, and
agriculture, as well as for understanding the consequences of man-made

“Recent advances in mass spectrometry are fuelling a revolution in the
geological sciences,” said Dean of Sciences Leon Radziemski. “Partly because
of WSU’s location in an area of classic geological interest, near the Cascade
Range, the Idaho granite batholith and the Columbia River flood basalts, our
department of geology is already noted for research strength in igneous
geology, and specifically its relationship to regional water supplies and water
pollution. This new equipment will make WSU a leader in the 200-year effort to
understand the origins of igneous rocks.”

The $475,000 Murdock grant was matched by a $476,135 three-year grant from
the NSF and $150,000 from WSU. The Murdock Trust was created by the will
of M.J. “Jack” Murdock, a co-founder of the Oregon electronics company