The VIEPS (Victorian Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences) Ar-Ar Laboratory, located in the School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Australia is a state-of-the-art 40Ar/39Ar dating facility. In 2011, the Laboratory commissioned a Thermo Fisher Scientific ARGUSVI multi-collector mass spectrometer (the first such instrument installed outside of the Thermo Fisher testing facility), enabling analytical precisions of <0.1% for most geological samples. This instrument, together with the companion CO2 laser system and gas preparation line, was funded through an ARC LIEF grant lodged by founding members of the Thermochronology and Noble Gas Geochronology and Geochemistry Organisation (TANG3O). Members of the Noble Gas Geochronology Research Group enjoy ongoing, productive collaborations with TANG3O partners and other local and international collaborators.
Noble gas mass spectrometers
The VIEPS Ar-Ar Laboratory currently operates two instruments for dating of geological materials using the 40Ar/39Ar chronometer via furnace or laser step-heating analysis:
- A new generation, fully automated multi-collector Thermo Fisher Scientific Argus VI mass spectrometer that permits high-precision 40Ar/39Ar dating of a wide variety of sample types, including Pleistocene/Holocene-aged samples of low-K content. This instrument is linked to a Photon Machines Fusions 55W 10.6 CO2 laser system, enabling high-precision step-heating of single grains or bulk samples. Specifications as follows:
- Mass spectrometer volume ~700 cm3; Gas extraction/purification line volume ~240 cm3
- Sensitivity: ~3.55 × 10-17 moles/fA
- Five high-gain Faraday detectors (two with 1012 Ω resistors, three with 1013 Ω resistors) and one CDD detector
- Analytical precision: <0.1% for most samples
- A VG3600 mass spectrometer connected to a double-vacuum niobium resistance furnace and a Synrad Firestar v40 W CO2 laser system. Step-heating of bulk samples or single grains is possible (depending on sample age). Specifications as follows:
- Mass spectrometer + gas extraction (furnace)/purification line total volume: 2,600 cm3
- Sensitivity: ~4.00 × 10-17 moles/mV
- Daly detector
- Analytical precision: <1% for most samples
Equipment is operated and maintained at the highest standard.
Other facilities and services
In addition to 40Ar/39Ar geochronology services, we also offer mineral separation, thin sectioning, petrographic characterisation, and electron microprobe sample characterisation.
The VIEPS Ar-Ar Laboratory is home to the University of Melbourne Noble Gas Geochronology Research Group, supervised by Prof David Phillips. We primarily conduct research in 40Ar/39Ar geochronology and thermochronology.
Our current areas of research include the inter-calibration of 40Ar/39Ar flux monitor minerals, development of high precision 40Ar/39Ar methods for dating of young (basaltic) volcanoes, geochronology of kimberlites and related rocks, the timing of various ore mineralisation (e.g. gold) events, orogenesis (e.g. Cape Fold Belt) and detrital mineral provenance studies.
We enjoy a large number of productive collaborations with a variety of individuals and organisations (see list of recent peer-reviewed publications on the Noble Gas Geochronology research page). These include universities, geological surveys, other government bodies and industry. Some of our current research projects are in part funded by organisations with similar interests.
The VIEPS Ar-Ar Laboratory offers service 40Ar/39Ar geochronology for external researchers and organisations at competitive rates and with fast turnaround times (typically 9-12 months from receipt of samples).
We operate on three levels of confidentiality and collaboration, corresponding to individual client needs and budgets:
- Projects that are ‘commercial in confidence’ remain the proprietary information of the client. Our staff are bound by that confidentiality.
- ‘Commercial collaborative’ projects represent joint research between clients and Ar-Ar Laboratory researchers where projects are initiated by clients. There is an expectation that such work will lead to a scientific publication with co-authorship by the relevant Ar-Ar Laboratory collaborator/s.
- ‘Research collaborative’ projects represent joint research between partner researchers and Ar-Ar Laboratory researchers. There is an expectation that such work will lead to a scientific publication with co-authorship by the relevant Ar-Ar Laboratory collaborator/s. Depending on the research topic and the analytical requirements, significant discounts may apply.
For work undertaken at standard commercial rates, we will provide a confidential report of analyses performed and results obtained. For collaborative projects, we will prepare necessary results for publication in journals or presentation at conferences.
We are happy to discuss any research you may have and to suggest a suitable, cost-effective program to meet your needs. Please visit the resources page for more information about sample requirements and processing timeframes.
Please contact us for further information.
Contains information about turnaround times and instructions for sample processing.
Download: Sample Information Form (.doc)
Please use this form when submitting samples to the Ar-Ar Laboratory.
School of Earth Sciences (Attn: David Phillips), Cnr Elgin and Swanston Streets
The University of Melbourne
Parkville VIC 3010