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Virtual SIMS Lab

Secondary Ions Mass Spectrometry (SIMS)

Ion microprobes, also known as secondary ion mass spectrometers, use a finely focused ion beam to sputter the surface of a solid sample. A small percentage of the material liberated from the polished surface of the sample is ionised, and these secondary ions are accelerated into a mass spectrometer where they are separated according to their mass-over-charge ratio. Ion microprobes, such as the Cameca 1280-HR, offer six modes of operation for geoscience applications: 

  • Isotopic analyses
  • Trace element analyses
  • Geochronology
  • Imaging
  • Depth profiling
  • Particle search

More information about SIMS can be found via the following link



The virtual SIMS laboratory at the University of the Witwatersrand provides access to the 1280-HR, housed at the Helmholtz GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ), in Germany via an internet link. This facility, the first of its kind in Africa, exists as part of a co-operative agreement finalised in 2018 between the GFZ and Wits. Due to the nature of this agreement, a limited number of 20 analysis days per annum are granted to southern African projects; and as such, submitted project proposals are selected based on their research merit by an independent steering committee.

The centralised location of this virtual lab at Wits provides easy access to complementary analytical infrastructure (i.e. electron probe and scanning electron microscope) for sample pre-characterisation. Sample preparation facilities, tailored to producing high quality samples, are also situated on the campus.



To find out how to access the sample preparation facilities please contact Dr. Sarah Glynn. Regarding access to the virtual SIMS lab, please consult the following link where a project application form is available for download.