Development of Combined Instrument for Molecular Imaging in Geochemistry (CIMIG) Project uri icon

DCO ID 11121/2382-4829-7865-1973-CC


  • Earth’s greatest potential carbon reservoirs are the lower mantle and core, where even a few parts per million (ppm) carbon in metallic or silicate phases could represent many times the confirmed planetary carbon content. This ambitious instrument is designed to address the challenge of measuring trace amounts of carbon (1 to 10 ppm) in a variety of geologically relevant samples, including mineral phases that are nominally acarbonaceous. The Combined Instrument for Molecular Imaging and Geochemistry (CIMIG) involves the modification of an existing $2 million Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) instrument at the Smithsonian Institution. It incorporates surface and depth profiling combined with an integrated sample preparation system for the detection and contamination-free 3-D mapping of inorganic and organic materials at ~100 nm spatial resolution. Nanoscale analysis is presently impossible by any other single technique. The combined instrument provides an unparalleled facility to analyze C-bearing samples that are not subject to the surficial contamination that plagues current instruments. It is being used to analyze a variety of samples, minute fluid inclusions, cellular fossil remains, bioflims, diamonds, and Martian meteorites.

    A number of samples important to DCO have been analyzed using various techniques that comprise the CIMIG instrument, although the components have not yet been physically integrated. This work proves that integrating these instruments is both desirable and productive. A major challenge is procuring additional funds and better physical integration. To date, analyses have been targeted at specific science questions that are appealing to a diverse range of funding opportunities and for use in proposals to various funding agencies. Simultaneously, the science team is planning how to handle community input to the instrumentation through use of remote access software.