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Stable Isotope Laboratory of Luke (SILL)

Stable isotope analysis of plant material has proven to be a powerful tool in analysing environmental changes and plant response to these changes. Plants are essentially constructed from carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, all of which have stable isotopes which can be analysed, each yielding unique and useful environmental information. The stable isotopes of an element are atoms which have the same number of protons but variable number of neutrons in their nucleus (e.g. for carbon: 12C, 13C). These do not undergo radioactive decay and are therefore stable (e.g. 14C is called a radioactive isotope and has a half-life of 5730 years). Due to small variations in the masses of these stable isotopes, they tend to partition in physical processes and chemical reactions in a slightly different way. By measuring the stable isotope composition of compounds, we can acquire information on, for example, ambient conditions (temperature, humidity, light conditions) in which the compounds were formed. In SILL, our main focus is on forestry; using stable isotope signals to study forest response to the changing climatic conditions and how, for example, different management practices influence tree growth.

SILL has laboratory facilities for preparation of tree rings for isotope analysis, Photo: Maija Kurki

Research

  • We study the impact of environmental change on forests by measuring the stable isotopes of water, carbohydrates and tree rings in the biosphere and hydrosphere.
  • We are continuously developing new methods for analysing stable isotopes.
  • We provide isotope analysis in collaboration with expert scientists around Europe.
The stable isotope analytical facilities of SILL contain three peripherals for IRMS. Photo: Elina Sahlstedt

Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS)

SILL has three peripherals for IRMS, suitable for:

  • Laser ablation δ13C analysis of solid samples 
    • State-of-the-art instrument for e.g. tree rings
    • High-resolution measurements, down to 40 µm 
  • δ2H, δ13C, δ15N and δ18O analysis of solid samples
  • δ2H and δ18O analysis of water
Laser ablation enables ultra-high spatial resolution analysis of organic solid matter, such as tree rings. Photo: Elina Sahlstedt

People

Director

Laboratory Manager

Research Team

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