Isotopx will always be a company dedicated to helping the leading scientists of the world achieve their analytical goals through the improvement of measurement technologies. We’re proud to be close to our customer base, and we like to think that the purchase of one of our instruments is the start of a long and fruitful relationship.
If you want to read more about how Isotopx came to be, and to better understand what drives us, read the “our history” section below.
A legacy of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry
In the early 1970s, VG Micromass launched the world’s first commercial thermal ionization MS 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 instruments 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.
The Micromass Era
In 1996 the VG Instruments group was bought by Thermo Electron. 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 (MC-ICP-MS) and the IsoProbe T (TIMS) 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 Waters, 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 MS) to a management team and GV Instruments was formed.
Although the approach from Thermo was ultimately successful, the UK Competition Commission ruled that they had to divest GV’s TIMS and IRMS businesses. The IRMS business was sold to Elementar and became IsoPrime, whilst the TIMS business was bought by Dr Zenon Palacz and Mark Yardley, two of the GV Instruments management team. Thus, Isotopx came into existence in Feb 2008.
Many of our staff began their careers with VG and have been involved in high precision isotope ratio 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.
Immediately after Isotopx was formed, a program to modernize the IsoProbe T began. The ion-counting Daly had always been a unique part of the VG TIMS offering. To ensure that the Daly continued to be the best axial ion counting system available, the complete system (detector and counting electronics) was 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 brought control of design and production into the company and away from outside firms.
At the Goldschmidt 2010 conference 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 uranium-lead (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 focused solely on TIMS. In fact the Phoenix range is now considered the gold standard for many TIMS applications, and has been almost universally adapted by the uranium-lead (U-Pb) dating community (e.g. EARTHTIME).
At the end of 2012 Isotopx was proud to announce the launch of our static multi-collector noble gas mass spectrometer. We achieved what we set out to do, to design a simple fixed collector mass spectrometer that could analyse any of the noble gases using our proven long-life Faraday collectors as well as optional ion counting multipliers. This combined with our conventional 1:1 optics and low-volume design resulted in an outstanding noble gas instrument. The addition of our patented ATONA technology and new high-sensitivity cathode source further empowered our customers in the noble gas community.
Gas-Source IRMS and Beyond
The Isotopx philosophy is to continuously innovate. In the intervening years we’ve been busy, and the end of 2021 saw the launch of our first IRMS instrument, SIRIX. 2022 will also be a bumper year for new technologies and new product launches. Watch this space!
Isotopx Limited is committed to the design and manufacture of the highest quality thermal ionization MS, noble gas MS, gas source IRMS and other high precision isotope ratio mass spectrometers. We are also proud to maintain our previous generation mass spectrometers and to support our customers now and for years to come. All our spectrometers are tested to the most rigorous specifications ensuring state-of-the-art analyses combined with instrument robustness.