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Atom Probe Tomography Analysis of the Reference Zircon GJ-1: A Round-Robin Experiment



Ann C. Chiaramonti Debay, Paul T. Blanchard, Alexandre La Fontaine, Florent Exertier, Sandra Piazolo, Elena Belousova, Zirong Peng, Baptiste Gault, David W. Saxey, Denis Fougerouse, Steven Reddy, Julie Cairney


In recent years, atom probe tomography (APT) has been increasingly used to study minerals, and in particular Zircons. The mineral Zircon (ZrSiO4) is ideally suited for geochronology by utilising the U-Th-Pb isotope systems, and trace element compositions are also widely used to constrain petrogenetic processes. However, while standard geoanalytical techniques provide information at micron scale lengths, the unique combination of chemical/isotopic sensitivity and spatial resolution of APT allows compositional measurements at the nanoscale. This round robin study is aimed at understanding the reproducibility of APT data across research facilities and assessing the role of different aspects of the atom probe workflow on reproducibility. This is essential for a new technique that is not well-understood by the geoscience community. In this study, nine samples from the same GJ-1/87 grain were sent to nine APT institutes in Europe, USA and Australia. Each institute conducted three different rounds of APT analyses: using unconstrained analysis parameters, pre-defined analysis parameters, and a data analysis exercise. Data such as the measured composition, acquisition parameters, or mass spectrum peak identifications, were recorded and analyzed. We observe a significant variation in the measured composition across this round robin study as well as the number of trace elements identified. These differences are thought to directly result from the user’s choice of peak identification, ranging and background correction model. The type of instrument does not seem to be a critical factor.
Chemical Geology


Atom probe tomography, round robin, reference zircon


Chiaramonti, A. , Blanchard, P. , La, A. , Exertier, F. , Piazolo, S. , Belousova, E. , Peng, Z. , Gault, B. , Saxey, D. , Fougerouse, D. , Reddy, S. and Cairney, J. (2018), Atom Probe Tomography Analysis of the Reference Zircon GJ-1: A Round-Robin Experiment, Chemical Geology, [online], (Accessed April 22, 2024)
Created September 20, 2018, Updated December 12, 2019