In 2000, Oregon State University received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles, Calif., to establish the W.M. Keck Collaboratory for Plasma Spectrometry on campus, linking state-of-the-art geochemical analysis capabilities to one of the most extensive supercomputing networks for marine research in the world.
The grant helped to purchase a multicollector plasma mass spectrometer – an instrument capable of detecting precise isotope ratios of many elements on very small samples. There are only about a dozen such instruments in the world, and its purchase helped complete a development process that began in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences in 1992.
“The collaboratory is a laboratory without walls,” says facility director Gary Klinkhammer, a professor of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. “Its boundaries extend beyond the oceans and atmosphere to encompass the other environmental sciences, engineering, electronics and archaeology.
“It allows researchers at OSU and elsewhere to conduct precise, sophisticated analyses of a variety of materials, from computer chips to seawater samples, from tiny mineral grains in volcanic rocks to archaeological artifacts,” Klinkhammer adds.
The facility draws world class researchers, especially those studying marine science, from OSU, from other U.S. institutions including the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Hawaii and Woods Hole/MIT, and from overseas institutions including Cambridge University and the Danish Lithosphere Center.