The Arizona LaserChron Center is an NSF Community Facility that is designed to address problems in Earth Science through the generation of U-Th-Pb geochronologic data and complementary geochemical information by Laser Ablation ICP Mass Spectrometry. Our primary goals are as follows:

  • Generate U-Th-Pb ages, Hf isotope ratios, and trace element concentrations of the best precision, accuracy, and spatial resolution possible from LA-ICPMS.

  • Provide opportunities for researchers from around the world (and especially NSF-supported scientists) to use our instruments and expertise to address geologic problems.

  • Drive the development of new techniques and applications of geochronology, thermochronology, and petrochronology.

  • Build new cyberinfrastructure for data acquisition, analysis, and archiving.

  • Use every aspect of facility operation as an opportunity to increase access to geochronology and build diversity and expertise among geochronologists and users of geochronology.

The main instruments utilized at the Arizona LaserChron Center include a Nu Plasma multicollector ICPMS, a Thermo Element2 single-collector ICPMS, two Photon Machines Analyte G2 excimer lasers, and a Hitachi 3400N SEM, all of which are dedicated to ALC research. These instruments were acquired with support from the University of Arizona, the National Science Foundation, and ExxonMobil Upstream Research.

Support for the Arizona LaserChron Center is provided by the NSF Instrumentation and Facilities Program. The center is a Community Facility, available to all NSF-supported researchers and students as well as researchers from around the world. NSF funding allows us to significantly reduce the cost of NSF-supported research, with additional support available to subsidize research conducted by students. Additional information about NSF Facilities is available at

Check out our Welcome Video to learn more about the ALC. Please contact George Gehrels or Mauricio Ibanez-Mejia (co-directors of the ALC;; for general questions about the lab, or Mark Pecha (Manager of the ALC; for specific information about analytical methods, schedules, costs, letters of collaboration, etc.

Please note that some links will not work if you are logged into other web systems -- just log out of other systems if you experience access issues.

What's New:

  • We are now able to host in-person visits for researchers who are fully vaccinated and agree to follow our lab re-entry protocols (e.g., wearing a face mask, physical distancing, cleaning surfaces, etc.). Please see our Re-Entry Form for more information. We are also able to offer virtual sessions, as described in our Covid-19 video. Please contact Mark Pecha ( to explore these options!

  • We have created a Researcher Info/Assessment Form to help us keep track of ALC projects and people, and to gather input on how the ALC operates. Please complete the form before, during, and/or after your visit. Note that all information is optional, and you should feel free to submit comments anonymously. Thanks for your input!

  • We are pleased to have established a collaboration with Teledyne Technologies that focuses on developing new hardware, software, and applications for U-Th-Pb geochronology and related geochemistry by LA-ICPMS. A new Iridia laser system, equipped with a Cobalt cell and HDIP software is now being used with our Element2 ICPMS, and is available for demo visits. Please contact Mark Pecha ( and Lucas Smith ( for more information. Stay tuned for updates!

  • Please upload your data to!! We have streamlined the process such that it now takes just a couple of minutes per sample. Instructions are available from the Tools=>Geochron Uploading link to the right...

  • In an effort to enhance diversity/inclusion in geochronology, we are encouraging researchers to include one extra student from an under-represented minority in their visit to the ALC. We will cover all travel, lodging, and analysis costs for this student. Details available from the Analytical Costs link to the right.

  • We are developing new MATLAB-based software tools that can be used for analyzing and visualizing geochronologic and complementary geochemical data. These tools can be accessed from the Analysis Tools links to the right. Note that Kurt Sundell (ALC post-doc), Joel Saylor (Univ. British Columbia), and John Hartman (UofA Computer Science) are leading these programming efforts.

  • Check out the growing set of videos on the LaserChron YouTube Channel. Presentations so far focus on methods for preparing/analyzing samples and for maintaining our NU ICPMS, Element2 ICPMS, and Photon Machines G2 lasers. Martin Pepper (ALC resesrcher) is leading these efforts...

  • We have collected a large batch of FC-1 (Duluth Gabbro) from the original outcrop to serve as a primary or secondary zircon standard for U-Pb geochronology by LA-ICPMS and SIMS. Please contact George Gehrels ( if you would like a bucket!

  • A Short Course on "Geological Applications of Geo-Thermo-Petro-Chronology" was offered at the 2021 National GSA Meeting. The modules and video recordings for previous courses are available from the "Short Course" link to the right.

  • For users of Thermo Element instruments, note that we have developed a routine that extracts information from dat files. This provides access to the raw counts for each measurement, resulting in more reliable data reduction than is possible from FIN2 files. The decoding routine is posted on GitHub, and more information is available in an article available from Thanks to John Hartman (UofAZ Computer Science) and Philip Wenig (OpenChrom) for cracking the code!

  • If you are working on an NSF proposal, note that the current NSF Grant Proposal Guide requires that letters of collaboration include only a statement about willingness to collaborate. Information about instruments and methods should be provided in your "Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources" section. We are happy to provide a letter of collaboration. Information about our instruments, methods, and analyses is available from the Proposal Tools section (link to right). Financial information can be accessed from the Analytical Costs and Student Support links (to the right). We also have a Data Management Plan that can be modified for your project.

  • We continue to develop techniques that integrate U-Th-Pb geochronology, Trace and Rare Earth Element analysis, and Lu-Hf isotope geochemistry. We are able to conduct U-Th-Pb and T/REE analyses just using our Element2 (single-collector ICPMS) -- there is no need for split-stream analysis. U-Th-Pb, T/REE, and Lu-Hf can be done simultaneously in split-stream mode, by connecting the Element2 with our Nu multi-collector ICPMS. But it is much more efficient (and cost-effective) to do the analyses in two different sessions given that most studies require many more U-Pb ages than T/REE or Hf isotope analyses. We accordingly recommend doing large-n U-Th-Pb first (with the E2 or NU), and then selecting optimal grains for T/REE and Hf isotope analyses.

  • We have developed a system for extracting zircons from fine-grained sediments (e.g., loess, siltstone), enabling analysis of zircons down to ~10 microns. The process relies on a series of ultrasonic baths for separating zircon from clay. Check out the recent application of this method for analysis of Chinese Loess.

  • Our Hitachi 3400N SEM (equipped with Gatan Chroma CL2 color/UV and Oxford EDS/EBSD detectors) is now fully integrated into the LaserChron facility. This instrument generates high-resolution BSE and/or color CL images that are necessary for characterizing grains and optimizing analysis locations. See the accompanying information about Imaging Options to determine which types of images are appropriate for your analyses, and for costs of imaging. Here are some examples of CL images and BSE images. Please contact Zachary Michels (, manager of the SEM lab, for more information.

  • Information about ongoing projects, samples, costs, correspondence, etc. can be found at our Current Projects page (link to right). Note that secure sites are available on request.

  • Having issues with high Hg content during laser ablation analyses in your lab? You might try installing a gold trap similar to this design. We can provide the glass ends (at no charge) -- contact

  • The "Working-Group for Geochronology by LA-ICPMS" ( continues to be active. Most recent is a paper by Horstwood and others (2016) that presents "best practices" for acquisition, reduction, and reporting of U-Th-Pb data by LA-ICPMS. Workshops and short courses were held at 2018, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, and 2009 Goldschmidt/AGU meetings. Note that we are distributing sets of standards to other labs (103 so far) that would like to participate in this interlab calibration -- see Geochronology Standards link to the right.

  • We are participating in several efforts to build community and increase access to geochronology. Activities include (1) development of the "It's About Time" whitepaper which was prepared in response to NROES recommendations concerning geochronologic infrastructure, (2) participation in preparation of the Earth In Time report, which recommended that NSF establish a National Geochronology Consortium, (3) helping lead the Geochronology Division of Geological Society of America, and (4) participating in an NSF RCN proposal to establish a "Geochronology Access and Innovation Network."

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