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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Replacement and Upgrade of Two Aging Instruments for Carbon and Nitrogen Quantification and Isotopic Analysis of Soil, Plant and Animal Materials


Carbon and nitrogen play central roles in the environment, including in agroecosystems, forests and soils. Studies on the environmental dynamics of carbon and nitrogen often focus on their cycling between plants, soil, animals, microorganisms and the atmosphere, which is highly difficult to quantify. There has been increasing interest in carbon stability in soil and in developing and promoting agricultural management techniques that increase soil carbon as a means to address climate change, and to control nutrient runoff, thus the core is seeing a rise in demand for quantification and isotopic characterization of carbon and nitrogen analysis in soil and plants.

This project will enhance the campus capacity for such analyses by upgrading the isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS) system and replacing the carbon-nitrogen elemental analyzer. The upgrade for the mass spectrometer replaces the electronics and software with next generation electronics that support a higher data resolution and more reliable computer-instrument communications; it replaces the aging vacuum system with current models; and replaces the ion source with a new design with increased sensitivity. The electronics upgrade also replaces the control electronics for two prep modules attached to the isotope ratio mass spec, one for solid samples, the other for compound-specific analysis through a combustion interface linked to a gas chromatograph.


Zac Freedman, assistant professor of soil microbiology


Thea Whitman, associate professor of soil science


Jean-Michel Ane, professor of bacteriology

Randy Jackson, professor of agronomy

Thea Whiteman, associate professor of soil science


Environmental Gas Flux, Biogeochemistry, and Stable Isotope Analytical and Teaching Laboratory