Geochemists from iCRAG, the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences, and Trinity College Dublin today launched a new micro-beam analytical laboratory – the iCRAG Lab@TCD.
The facility comprises state-of-the-art electron and laser beam equipment for the characterisation of geoscience material. The event marks a new era in geo-analysis in Ireland with the launch of the first dedicated scanning electron microscope, the TIGER, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, using the latest in detector technology for the characterisation of minerals.
The instrument is a Pan-European collaboration of three leading manufacturers giving Irish researchers a cutting edge in applied and fundamental research.
Speaking at the launch, Trinity's Professor of Geology and Mineralogy, Balz Kamber, said: “The TIGER is a special type of scanning electron microscope, which we will use to investigate real-world rocks and environmental samples at sub-microscopic scale. This cutting edge analytical instrument has a wide array of detectors that allow the simultaneous determination of many properties, such as composition, luminescence and atomic arrangement. The TIGER also has software that can automatically recognise groups of minerals within a rock and map their mutual relationships. Most importantly, the TIGER can quantify the content of valuable metals in rocks in unprecedented detail. It will thus be used to develop new approaches to resource and energy efficiency.”
“Combining electron with laser beam analytical equipment in one facility gives iCRAG researchers the ability to study elemental fingerprints over 9 orders of magnitude in concentration. This enables the team to tackle questions as broad as the cause of problematic aggregate in Irish housing estates, reconstructing the ocean temperature signal stored in deep coral or assessing the personal exposure of Dubliners to diesel particulate emissions”.
Dr Darrin Morrissey, Director of Programmes at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “The launch of the iCRAG Lab@TCD is a key development in Ireland’s Geoscience Research and represents a strategic investment of SFI into a facility that will help to address several societal challenges. Due to its geographic position and its bedrock geology, Ireland is an ideal testbed for new analytical solutions facing our society, such as resource efficiency, clean water supply and the energy transition. With the help of this investment, SFI is contributing to iCRAG researchers successfully competing for EU and other international funding”.
iCRAG Lab@TCD Manager Colin Reid said: “The iCRAG Lab@TCD has been developed from the Centre for Microscopy and Analysis (CMA) which has a long history of contract and research analysis. The first Transmission Electron Microscope in TCD was installed in the Zoology Department in 1965. This started the development of microscopy and analysis in TCD which has continued to this day culminating in the iCRAG Lab@TCD equipped with state-of-the-art analytical facilities.”
iCRAG, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, conducts world-leading research in thematic research areas that are systematically embedded into industry to maximise impact and underpin sustainable economic impact. The Centre’s work focusses on significantly de-risking Ireland’s onshore and offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities, discovering new mineral and aggregate deposits, securing safe groundwater supplies, and safeguarding the geomarine environment.
iCRAG is a joint initiative between Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University College Cork, National University of Ireland Galway, Maynooth University, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and Teagasc.
The Centre brings together more than 150 researchers to position Ireland at the centre of applied geoscience research. iCRAG is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund and by iCRAG industry partners.