The laboratory has recently acquired a new mass spectrometer of stable isotopes of noble gases (NGMS) co-financed by the National Plan of R&D 2013-2016.
The Institute of Technology and of Renewable Energies (ITER), dependent of the Cabildo Insular de Tenerife, was the first R&D Centre in the Canary Islands in having a mass spectrometer magnetic sector for the determination of stable isotopes ratios, among its instrumental technical resources. In 2004 the ITER acquired its first mass spectrometer of isotopic ratios (in English IRMS, Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry) thanks to the alert (MAC/2.3/C56) project “reducing earthquake-volcanic risk in the Azores and Canary Islands: development and implementation of a system of alert for civil protection based on detection of warning signs of volcanic eruptions” co-funded by the programme of the European Union, INTERREG III B 2000-2006 Azores-Madeira-Canary Islands.
With this first mass spectrometer, ITER launched the first laboratory of geochemistry of stable isotopes in the Canary Islands, whose main purpose was to characterize the magmatic fraction of volcanic gases that is emitted by volcanic island systems. This laboratory instrumentation consists of a magnetic sector mass spectrometer Thermo Finnigan MAT253 and a set of peripheral instrumentation required for the preparation of the samples before their introduction into the mass spectrometer. These sets of peripherals consist of a gas chromatograph with combustion, elementary with a dilution system analyser and a universal system of preparation and introduction of gas samples (GasBench II). This instrumentation allows us to perform analysis of stable isotopes of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen.
Recently, this stable isotope geochemistry laboratory has been equipped with a second mass spectrometer to determine relations of stable isotopes of noble gases (in English NGMS, Noble Gas Mass Spectrometry) which has been acquired thanks to a project (AIDL13-3E-2476) of the island of the Tenerife Energy Agency (AIET), approved by the call of the government’s sub programme of scientific and technical infrastructures of the Government R&D Plan 2013-2016 of the Ministry of economy and competitiveness co-financed with FEDER funds of the European Union. Studies of geochemistry of stable isotopes of noble gases have a multitude of scientific applications. The recently acquired scientific equipment will provide a significant advance in the research that ITER´s scientists may now carry out in the field of the exploration of geothermal resources, groundwater resources, and reducing volcanic risk through a strengthening of the geochemical program for volcanic surveillance, among others.
A good example of the importance of the use and application of geochemistry of stable isotopes of noble gases in the field of reducing volcanic risk can be understood with the recent eruption of the volcano Mt. Ontake (Japan) occurred on September 27, 2014. This geological event was a hydro-volcanic eruption, where no new magmatic material was detected, and killed 57 people and 6 missing. The eruption did not record warning signs such as significant changes on the seismicity and deformation of the volcanic edifice; Conversely, researchers at the University of Tokyo recorded a significant increase of the relations of stable isotopes of helium (3He/4He) fluids terrestrial volcano Mt. Ontake (gas and water) from June 2003 to November 2014; for a period of 10 years before the eruption of the volcano Mt. Ontake (Japan) 2014! This discovery suggests that the record of this anomaly in the relations of stable isotopes of helium (3He/4He) can be a very useful marker for the risk mitigation in the long term in relation to the volcanic eruption.
This stable isotope geochemistry laboratory not only will be significant for volcanic surveillance in the Canary Islands, given that the analysis and evaluation of stable isotopes is a tool that is widely used in studies related to the exploration and development of geothermal energy.
“Isotopes” referred to the various forms of a chemical element that differ in the number of neutrons in its nucleus and, therefore, their atomic mass. It is common to associate the term “isotope” with the radioactive nuclides. However, stable isotopes, which will not break down over time, are the most abundant in nature. Its use as a problem-solving analytical tool is extending in many scientific and technical fields as biology, ecology, agronomy, veterinary and animal production, hydrogeology, mineralogy and Petrology, palaeoclimatology, archaeology, environment, food quality, climate change, geochemistry, etc.