Neptune Plus is a new mass spectrometer installed at KFU, currently the most advanced device of its kind in Russia.
This mass spectrometer with inductively coupled plasma is aimed at geochemical research of radioactive and stable isotopes, determining the absolute age of rock formations and minerals. The equipment was installed at the Institute of Geology and Petroleum Technologies. Neptune Plus is the most important among the string of the newest equipment at the Institute. There is but a handful of such spectrometers in the world, so overseas colleagues will work with it as well.
The sensitive device is placed in a sterile room. The air here is processed through three-phase filtration.
The signal that must be so precisely determined and registered is the isotope ration in a researched specimen. Assistant Lecturer Bulat Gareev explained what isotopic labelling is and where it can be useful:
“Every chemical has isotopes with their differing prevalence on Earth. One can take up 99% of all element presence, and the other only 1%. The change in ratio happens during chemical reactions and means that some process is in place – biological, physical, or chemical. The measurement is so precise that it can be used for paleoclimatic reconstructions and predictions.
Our newest equipment also helps survey mineral resources. We can determine whether a particular region has oil deposits, and if it does, what is their volume. Even surface analysis will provide much info. And if we take samples from benthic deposits of the continental shelf and research it for methane, we can tell if there is oil there. The methane from the Earth’s interior and the bacteria-produced methane are chemically identical but have different isotopic ratios. So the specificity can help us determine the presence of oil and gas”.
The breakthrough is conducted by the Institute of Geology and the Institute of Chemistry together with Tatneft and other oil companies. The methods of geochemical labeling can increase the effectiveness of geological exploration and hydrocarbon extraction.
However, Neptune Plus is essential not only for that. It can also help in space research through studying the chemical composition of meteorites, space dust, and other extraterrestrial objects.