Project Details


We propose to purchase a Cameca NanoSIMS 50L imaging secondary ion mass spectrometer. This novel and powerful instrument will be used to support an extended group of researchers at Arizona State University working on diverse topics involving both soft (biological) materials and hard materials (minerals), and at the interface between the two (biosensors, antibiotic clays, nanoparticle toxicity). The projects have in common the need for chemical, and in particular isotopic, analysis at length scales below, in some cases well below, the ~ 1 :m limit of conventional SIMS instrumentation. Intellectual merit: The NanoSIMS 50L has exceptional image resolution (down to 50 nm), sensitivity (high transmission and simultaneous ion collection) and specificity (high mass resolution with minimal loss of sensitivity). To match these capabilities we have assembled a team that melds unrivaled SIMS expertise and long experience in open facility operation with research of high significance that will fully challenge the exceptional capabilities of the instrument. Isotope ratio measurements in tiny biological features will allow tracking of metabolic pathways within microbial cells following exposure to labeled feedstocks, while various distinct species in complex mixed bacterial colonies are simultaneously identified by imaging multiple element-labeled in situ hybridization probes. The results will impact studies ranging from the origins of life to efficient production of biofuels. Measurements of isotope ratios in submicron particles of atmospheric aerosols will help trace chemical history and geographical origins of these particles that play a vital role in cloud formation and climate forcing. Isotope ratios in tiny inclusions in meteorites will cast light on the events that drove the condensation of the solar nebula, while chemical measurements on a fine length scale in plagioclase microcrystals from volcanic ejecta (microlites) will offer time-resolved information on magma chamber conditions just prior to eruption. A third category of work is literally at the interface between hard and soft materials: nanoparticle-cell interactions that may be beneficial (killing bacterial cells) or detrimental (damaging human cells) will be investigated with fine spatial resolution and great chemical specificity. Broader impacts: Microbial diversity is far vaster than was imagined a few years ago. Microbes exist in every conceivable ecological niche; they carry out major functions in the biosphere (nitrogen fixation, photosynthesis), can drive industrial processes, and are by far the best candidates for life elsewhere in the universe. The NanoSIMS 50L will impact fundamental research and underpin applied research across these areas. By quantitatively imaging stable isotope incorporation it will allow detailed study of chemical pathways among extremophiles in complex microbial colonies in hot springs thought to be the closest present models of the first primitive organisms yielding insights into the early stages of life on earth. Isotopic imaging of cyanobacteria after exposure to various labeled feedstocks will allow fundamental study of metabolism in this photosynthetic organism and in particular tracing of the biosynthetic pathways for lipid formation. The results will lead to improved efficiency for biofuel production in a process that will recycle use waste carbon dioxide from power stations. Tiny mineral particles carry importance far out of proportion to their size. Sub-micron aerosol particles of e.g. sulfate or silica in the atmosphere play a dominant role in cloud formation and climate forcing. NanoSIMS isotope ratio measurements of S and Si in individual particles, will illuminate the chemistry and origins of the aerosols and contribute to the understanding of atmospheric chemistry and global warming. Similarly tiny particles found as inclusions in meteorites tell the story of the early history of the
Effective start/end date2/15/109/30/13


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $3,267,586.00

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