Laser micropyrolysis gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer project

Laser micropyrolysis gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer project

The new instrument

We aim to build a new laser micropyrolysis gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (la-py-GC-MS) instrument to bridge the analytical gap between organic petrography and organic geochemistry. The instrument will have the capability to selectively analyse small (1–20 μm) petrographically-recognisable organic matter components. This unique capability will enable and accelerate high-impact research spanning the origin of life, fossil fuels, palaeontology, biomineralisation, and carbon sequestration.

The laser (Carbide-4W, Lastek) and TQ8050 Triple Quad Mass Spectrometer System (Shimadzu) are operational, and at present we are working on the interface. Eventually this instrument will be located in the new instrument lab in the renovated basement of 11 Wally's Walk (E5A). We expect the instrument to be operational by mid 2019.

Instrument schematic

Applications we expect to be working on soon are:

Fossils (Cambrian to extant)


Oil-bearing fluid inclusions

Precambrian organic matter

Macerals and fine-grained organic-rich laminated sediments

e.g. What is the chemical composition of this organic matter? e.g. Rahman et al., 2018, GCA


ARC LIEF, George, Paterson, Van Kranendonk, Brocks, Sherwood, Jacob, Fuerbach, Brock, Löhr, Sestak, $572K (2018-2019).

Research assistant Sophia Aharonovich is helping build the system.

Swedish Research Council, Holmer, Brock, George, Zhang; Reassessing the rise and phylogeny of Cambrian organophosphatic shelly lophotrochozoans using molecular fossils. This grant will fund a 1 year postdoc.

Macquarie University Research Fellowship: Integrating fossil shell ultrastructure and biomarkers to resolve the evolutionary roots of the lophotrochozoan tree of life (Dr Zhiliang Zhang, 2019-2021).

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