Forty years ago, VG Micromass launched the world's first commercial TIMS system - the VG MM 30. VG's philosophy was one of continued innovation. If a mass spectrometer became successful in its own right then a new VG company would be created to nurture and develop it. So, in 1974 the TIMS business of VG Micromass was given its own company and VG Isotopes was born.
Under the careful management of VG isotopes, Instruments such as the VG 54E, VG 354 and VG Sector 54 were developed. Many of these instrument are still collecting data today, which serves to highlight the advanced design and the quality of the engineering. VG was synonymous with high technology and the cutting edge of science.
In 1996 the VG Instruments group was bought by The Thermo Electron Corporation. However, a ruling by anti-trust authorities forced Thermo to divest some mass spectrometry technologies including isotope ratio mass spectrometry. A management buy-out followed and Micromass Ltd. came into existence although Thermo retained ownership of the VG name. During the Micromass era the Isoprobe P and the Isoprobe T were launched. Micromass also acquired MAP, a small manufacturer of Noble Gas instruments and their products were amalgamated with Micromass' existing Noble Gas business.
In the middle of 1997, the owners of Micromass were approached by The Waters Corporation who wished to buy the company. Waters was a leader in liquid chromatography and realized that they needed a far stronger mass spectrometry offering if they were to take the company forward. Waters acquisition of Micromass occurred in September 1997 and the mass spectrometry business of Micromass was slowly amalgamated into Waters over the next few years.
Waters core markets are pharmaceutical and biotechnology and the inorganic mass spectrometry products they acquired from Micromass did not fit into their business model. Consequently, in 2003, Waters sold the inorganic product lines (TIMS, IRMS, ICP-MS and Noble Gas) to a management team and GV instruments (an obvious play on the VG name) was formed.
The breadth of GV's product lines was both an asset and a challenge. It was difficult to focus on any one market when all others needed equal attention. Consequently, whilst some areas of GV's business were successful, overall GV was not sufficiently profitable and in late 2006 they were approached by Thermo who were interested in buying the company.
Although Thermo's approach was ultimately successful, the UK Competition Commission ruled that they had to divest GV's TIMS and IRMS businesses. The IRMS business was ultimately sold to Elementar and became IsoPrime whilst the TIMS business was bought by two managers - Dr Zenon Palacz and Mark Yardley and Isotopx came into existence in Feb 2008.
Isotopx is a smaller but far more dynamic company than GV or Micromass. Many of our staff began their careers with VG and have been in involved in mass spectrometry all of their working lives. We know our customers very well and pride ourselves on the quality of the service we provide and the strength of our products. Our focus solely on TIMS allows us to implement long-term plans in the knowledge that engineering and development resources do not need to be shared with other technologies.
Immediately after Isotopx was formed, a program of modernisation on the Isoprobe T was commenced. The ion-counting Daly has always been a unique part of the VG/Isotopx TIMS offering. To ensure that the Daly continued to be the best axial ion counting system available the complete system (detector and counting electronics) were updated. As far as possible our engineers ensured that the new Daly can be fitted as an upgrade to older Isoprobe and some Sector 54 instruments.
At the same time, new state-of-the art focussing electronics were developed. This not only improved instrument performance but it brought control of design and production into the company and away from outside firms
At Goldschmidt 2010 we launched the X62, the first new TIMS from the VG/Isotopx stable since the Isoprobe T was launched by Waters/Micromass in 1998. The X62 builds on the Isoprobe T and includes all of the developments that have been made since the formation of Isotopx.
Although X62 maintains our signature 1:1 optics, it features an enhanced dispersion of 620mm on the focal plane (compared to 540mm for the standard instrument). This permits X62 to collect UO2 at unit mass separation which is important for achieving the highest precision when dating zircons using a U double spike. With the new Daly already being the geochronologists detector of choice, it was crucial that the instrument should also permit this enhanced analysis of UO2. The combination of ion-counting Daly and enhanced UO2 collection make the X62 the most powerful instrument in the world for U-Pb dating.
In the early autumn of 2010 Phoenix was launched. Phoenix is the X62's sister instrument for applications that do not require the 620mm geometry extension.
Phoenix and Phoenix X62 (or Phoenix62) now form the basis of Isotopx's TIMS offering.
New developments continue and will ensure that Isotopx becomes synonymous with the most stable and reliable TIMS available, backed up by experienced engineers who are focussed solely on TIMS.
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