Instrumentation Initiatives

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The Deep Carbon Observatory supports instrumentation projects worldwide to advance deep carbon research. Instruments highlighted here were developed through DCO investment, leveraging, and partnership. 

Panorama High-Resolution Mass Spectrometer

eyoung [at] epss [dot] ucla [dot] edu (Edward Young), University of California Los Angeles

The development of a novel gas-source, multiple collector, high mass resolution, isotope ratio mass spectrometer was completed in 2014. The instrument is capable of unprecedented measurements of isotopic bond ordering in methane gas, which will allow DCO scientists to accurately define the origin and provenance of various sources of methane. The “Panorama” also allows for investigations into rare isotopologue abundance as well as other new applications, representing a major step towards developing a new branch of isotope chemistry. No other existing facility can provide this level of flexibility owing to the high mass resolving power of the Panorama coupled with its high sensitivity and multiple collection capabilities.

The Panorama has now been installed at the Geology Building at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), USA under the supervision of Edward Young, a researcher in DCO’s Deep Energy Community. This unique instrument has been made possible by funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation on behalf of the DCO, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, Shell Oil Company, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and UCLA. 


UCLA - Young Lab - Panorama Mass Spectrometer website


Young ED, Kohl IE, Sherwood Lollar B, Etiope G, Rumble D, Li S, Haghnegahdar MA, Schauble EA, McCain KA, Foustoukos DI, Sutclife C, Warr O, Ballentine CJ, Onstott TC, Hosgormez H, Neubeck A, Marques JM, Pérez-Rodríguez I, Rowe AR, LaRowe DE, Magnabosco C,  Yeung LY, Asha JL, Bryndzia LT (2017) The relative abundances of resolved 12CH2D2 and 13CH3D and mechanisms controlling isotopic bond ordering in abiotic and biotic methane gases. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 203:235-264

Young ED, Rumble D, Freedman P, Mills M (2016) A large-radius high-mass-resolution multiple-collector isotope ratio mass spectrometer for analysis of rare isotopologues of O2, N2, CH4 and other gases. International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 401:1-10

Young ED, Kohl IE, Warren PH, Rubie DC, Jacobson SA, Morbidelli A (2016) Oxygen isotopic evidence for vigorous mixing during the Moon-forming giant impact. Science 6272:493-496

News Articles:

27 April 2016 Panorama Mass Spectrometer on the Cover of the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry

29 January 2016 Rare isotopes offer clues to the chemistry of the planet (Hand E (2016) Science 352 (6272):431-432)

28 January 2016 How Earth’s Moon Formed: New Oxygen Isotope Measurements Change Model

28 August 2014 Methane Instrumentation Breakthroughs Advance Major DCO Decadal Goal

Quantum Cascade Laser-Infrared Absorption Spectrometer for Clumped Methane Isotope Thermometry

sono [at] mit [dot] edu (Shuhei Ono), Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

A major DCO instrumentation objective is to measure ratios of methane molecules with doubly isotope-substituted rare isotopes (13CH3D vs. 12CH2D2) that might provide information on methane formation temperature and may help resolve questions related to abiotic versus microbial origins—a DCO Decadal Goal. In addition to providing support for the Panorama High-Resolution Mass Spectrometer, the DCO encouraged a second science team, who proposed a radically different concept for clumped isotope measurements based on quantum adsorption spectroscopy. With highly leveraged start-up funds from the DCO, a high-risk, high-reward alternative instrument was developed by Shuhei Ono, MIT, at a low cost and with potential for mobilization and miniaturization for field applications.

Principal investigator Ono purchased key equipment in late 2012 and, as reported at the DCO International Science Meeting in March 2013, made rapid progress in building a prototype system for quantum cascade laser absorption spectroscopy. Preliminary test results are excellent and the initial DCO/Sloan investment will be leveraged by support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, which has recommended funding for the PI’s proposal for further research. 

The research lead by the team confirmed earlier measurements by mass-spectrometer that most geologic methane follows expected thermodynamic abundance.  They also demonstrated that methane samples from sites supporting active microbial methanogenesis (such as wetlands and cow rumens) and laboratory methanogen cultures carry unique non-statistical 13CH3D abundance. Currently the science team is applying the technique to test the origin of methane in various environments, including sites of serpentinization and marine hydrates


Whitehill AR, Joelsson LMT, Schmidt JA, Wang DT, Johnson MS, Ono S (2016) Clumped isotope effects during OH and Cl oxidation of methane. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 196:307-325

Wang DT, Welander PV, Ono S (2016)  Fractionation of the methane isotopologues 13CH4, 12CH3D, and 13CH3D during aerobic oxidation of methane by Methylococcus capsulatus (Bath). Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta192:186–202

Joelsson LMT, Schmidt JA, Nilsson EJK, Blunier T, Griffith DWT, Ono S, Johnson MS (2016) Kinetic isotope effects of 12CH3D  + OH and 13CH3D  + OH from 278 to 313 K. Atmoshere Chemistry and Physics 16: 4439-4449

Wang DT, Gruen DS, Sherwood Lollar B, Hinrichs K-U, Stewart LC, Holden JF, Hristov AN, Pohlman JW, Morrill PL, Könneke M, Delwiche KB, Reeves EP, Sutcliffe CN, DJ Ritter, Seewald JS, McIntosh JC, Hemond HF, Kubo MD, Cardace D, Hoehler TM, Ono S (2015) Nonequilibrium clumped isotope signals in microbial methane. Science 348:428-431

Inagaki, F, Hinrichs KU, Kubo Y, Bowles MW, Heuer VB, Hong WL, Hoshino T, Ijiri A, Imachi H, Ito M, Kaneko M, Lever MA, Lin YS, Methé BA, Morita S, Morono Y, Tanikawa W, Bihan M, Bowden SA, Elvert M, Glombitza C, Gross D, Harrington GJ, Hori T, Li K, Limmer D, Liu CH, Murayama M, Ohkouchi N, Ono S, Park YS, Phillips SC, Prieto-Mollar X, Purkey M, Riedinger N, Sanada Y, Sauvage J, Snyder G, Susilawati R, Takano Y, Tasumi E, Terada T, Tomaru H, Trembath-Reichert E, Wang DT Yamada Y (2015) Exploring deep microbial life in coal-bearing sediment down to ~2.5 km below the ocean floor. Science 349:420-424

Ono S, Wang DT, Gruen DS, Sherwood Lollar B, Zahniser MS, McManus BJ, Nelson DD (2014) Measurement of a Doubly Substitued Methane Isotopologue, 13CH3D, by Tunable Infrared Laser Direct Absorption Spectroscopy. Analytical Chemistry 86:6487-6494

News Articles:

29 January 2016 Rare isotopes offer clues to the chemistry of the planet (Hand E (2016) Science 351 (6272):431-432)

5 March 2015 New Detector Sniffs out Origins of Methane

28 August 2014 Methane Instrumentation Breakthroughs Advance Major DCO Decadal Goal

Pressurized Underwater Sample Handler (PUSH50)

isabelle [dot] Daniel [at] univ-lyon1 [dot] fr (Isabelle Daniel), Université Claude Bernard Lyon1 and rogerk5 [at] rpi [dot] edu (Karyn Rogers), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

To encourage high-pressure biological/geochemical research and to facilitate collaboration among researchers, the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) supported the custom development of the 50 mL Pressurized Underwater Sample Handler (PUSH50). Key attributes of the PUSH50 are its capability to both sample and transport biological samples under constant pressure and its certification for airline transport. The PUSH50 includes a 50mL reservoir and can maintain samples at up to100 MPa and 160 °C. DCO instrumentation support is being used to establish two high-pressure facilities with sample and transport equipment that will be available for use by the DCO Community. Initially, each facility will include five PUSH50s as well as a skid, pump, compensator and pressure sensor. These new facilities will be set up in 2016 in the laboratories of Isabelle Daniel (Université Claude Bernard Lyon1) and Karyn Rogers (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) where the PUSH50s and their accompanying equipment are being tested. As constructed, the PUSH50 is compatible for use on a SeaBird carousel but plans will be made to adapt it for use with submersibles and other deep-sea sampling equipment. The transporters, now known as PUSH50s, were delivered to Drs. Daniel and Rogers in September 2015.

News Articles:

16 December 2015 PUSH50: New Instrumentation for Microbial Exploration

Laser Isotope Ratio-meter (LIR) for real time in-situ measurement of 13CO2/12CO2

damien [dot] weidmann [at] stfc [dot] ac [dot] uk (Damien Weidmann), Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK

Volcanic degassing is the main pathway of carbon release from the Earth’s interior to the atmosphere. To constrain Earth’s deep carbon cycle, we must first quantify the relative contribution from various gas sources of volcanic origin. Quantitative knowledge of the isotopic composition of outgassed CO2 - specifically 13CO2/12CO2 ratio - contributes to identifying carbon sources and therefore to validating degassing models. Understanding these carbon fluxes is critical to the overarching goal of DCO’s Reservoirs & Fluxes Community to identify Earth’s principal deep carbon reservoirs, to determine the mechanisms and rates by which carbon moves among these reservoirs, and to assess the total carbon budget of Earth.

Achieving these scientific goals requires developing technologies and instrumentation that deliver data at relevant cost, temporal, and spatial scales. Damien Weidmann and colleagues developed a novel concept of real-time monitoring of carbon isotope ratio enabling compact, rugged and portable deployment. High-resolution middle infrared (2-20 µm) laser spectroscopy is used to precisely fingerprint isotopologues, which owing to their slight mass difference, vibrate with different frequencies that can be resolved by lasers. The advantages of this approach include precision, non-contact measurements, large immunity to interferences, limited sample preparation, real time measurements in a compact format, and possibility for absolute concentration measurements.

Weidmann’s project consists of evolving a laboratory demonstrator into a field deployable instrument and conducting a first sortie to a volcanic field (La Solfatara, Campi Fleigrei). To this end, the instrument was shrunk and ruggedized, without loss of sensitivity. Dedicated field electronics were also designed to allow operation using portable power sources. Lastly, a specific gas handling system was designed and implemented to sustain the chemical mixture expected from the Solfatara’s fumaroles.

In Summer 2015, the Laser Isotope Ratio-meter (LIR) was deployed for one week to La Solfatara, in collaboration with Stefano Caliro, INGV, Naples. During the campaign all aspects of the system were tested in real conditions and were found to be operating very well, in a very stable fashion. A series of isotopic measurements were made using different sampling approaches, whilst Caliro was simultaneously taking samples in the usual way for subsequent isotope mass spectrometry analysis. All data are being scrutinized in Fall 2015, but the instrument deployment was deemed a great success as it operated and collected data smoothly for an entire week.

The campaign, supported by DCO, has allowed a clear validation of the LIR instrument concept in the field. The instrument will be improved based on the experience and data gathered, with additional deployment campaigns in the near future being planned. In the long term, the system will be ultra-miniaturized, using integrated optics technologies, in order to develop an unattended, autonomous, miniature LIR that produces high-quality, real time, streaming data on the isotopic composition of CO2. The ultimate objective is to have several sites instrumented with such a system.



News Articles:

22 February 2016 New Company Launched to Commercialize Portable Gas Monitoring Instruments

Volcanic Carbon Atmospheric Flux Experiment (V-CAFÉ)

fischer [at] unm [dot] edu (Tobias Fischer), University of New Mexico

Two portable volcano mass spectrometers were built and extensively tested in the laboratory and in the field with partial DCO instrumentation support. The prototype instrument’s primary purpose was to autonomously monitor CO2 emitted from Earth’s volcanoes—essential to achieving DCO’s Decadal Goals. The system can be programmed to measure additional gases (N2, Ar, O2, CH4, He, H2) every ten minutes and store the data, which is downloadable to a laptop computer. This instrument can collect data autonomously for 3 to 4 days with a power consumption of 25 watts when measuring and less than 1 watt in sleep mode. With minor improvements and new power supply options (e.g., solar panel, wind generator), the system could be deployable for weeks without maintenance.

In 2012, the instrument was deployed at Lassen Volcano, California and at Halemaumau Crater, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. At present, the University of New Mexico is providing support to add solar panels and a water trap system that will make the system autonomous in harsh environments. High H2O concentrations depress the CO2 signal, which negatively affects detection limits. The current work is focusing on reducing the amount of sample drawn into the fore-line, thus reducing the overall amount of water and also removing the remaining water with the newly designed trap system. Once these issues are resolved, the instrument will be connected to a telemetry system that will allow investigators to control sampling intervals and collect data from the instrument remotely. 

Besides monitoring volcanic gases in plumes, potential instrument applications include monitoring of gases on oilrigs or pipelines, at CO2 sequestration sites, or for continuous monitoring of gases from geothermal production or exploration wells. In addition to the DCO-supported prototypes, a deep-sea version was developed that is capable of measuring gases dissolved in water at seafloor depths. Thus, this instrument version may be of interest for deep sea drilling operations where up-to-date gas compositional information could be critical.

The DCO funds for this project were leveraged with support from the University of New Mexico and the Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences (CEROS) program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a related submarine autonomous mass spectrometer (PI, garym [at] soest [dot] hawaii [dot] edu (Gary McMurtry), University of Hawaii). Photo credit: Tobias Fischer, University of New Mexico

SO2 Camera Monitoring System

Kevan Kamibayashi, USGS, tests the network link between the SO2 camera system at Kilauea’s summit caldera and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Photo credit: Christoph Kern, USGS.

Scientists from the USGS Cascades, Alaska, and Hawaii Volcano Observatories installed a novel sulfur dioxide (SO2) camera system at Kilauea's summit caldera in Hawaii in August 2013. The system uses two ultra-violet cameras to continuously measure the emission rate of SO2 released from the active summit eruption site with imagery streaming in near real-time. Developed with primary support from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, this instrument is one of the first camera-based SO2 gas monitoring systems installed at a volcano. When paired with in-situ sensors measuring the molecular ratio of other gases such as CO2 to SO2 in the plume, the SO2 camera technology provides scientists with a method for deriving the emission rates of various volatile species from the volcanic system. The high spatial and temporal resolution of the instrument is expected to provide unique insights into degassing processes at Kilauea, with application to other active volcanoes worldwide. For more information contact ckern [at] usgs [dot] gov (Christoph Kern).

Advanced Synchrotron X-ray Spectrometer for Deep Carbon

wmao [at] stanford [dot] edu (Wendy Mao), Stanford University

Carbon-specific X-ray Raman spectroscopy (XRS) is the most definitive probe for in-situ, non-destructive characterization of the ubiquitous, significant changes in carbon-molecular bonding under high-pressure and high-temperature conditions. The DCO provided partial support for a Kirkpatrick-Baez (K-B) focusing system (pictured) that enables high-pressure carbon-specific XRS study at Beamline 6-2 of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. This new development opens the exciting capability of XRS to a broader community than ever before.

The instrument was commissioned in April 2012 and optimization and improvements are ongoing. According to Principal investigator, wmao [at] stanford [dot] edu (Wendy Mao), the system is fully operational and open to the DCO community for use in x-ray spectroscopy experiments. The K-B focusing system’s construction was partially funded by the DCO and is one component of an ambitious five-year project that is supported in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The entire project will ultimately cost approximately $20 million with $3 million per year in operating expenses.

News Articles:

18 February 2015 Novel Carbon Bonding at High Pressure

Ultrafast Laser Instrument for in situ Measurements of Thermodynamic Properties of Carbon-bearing Fluids and Crystalline Materials

agoncharov [at] ciw [dot] edu (Alexander Goncharov), Carnegie Institution of Washington

Understanding the physics and chemistry of carbon at the conditions existing in Earth’s deep interior is an important DCO Decadal Goal. Such advances rely on developing comprehensive thermodynamic models of phase stability and physical properties of C-H-O fluid systems and their interactions with other deep phases—models that rely on as-yet-unknown thermodynamic properties of C-bearing materials. An ultrafast laser instrument for in situ measurements, developed with partial DCO support, aims to rapidly determine thermodynamic properties at submicron-length scales to enable measurements in previously unattainable pressure-temperature regimes.

With the DCO funding, the ultrafast laser system was modified for time-resolved measurements of the optical properties and emissivity of materials at high temperatures—leading to measurements of lattice and radiative thermal conductivity of the Earth’s materials at simultaneous conditions of high pressures and temperatures. These cutting-edge measurements led to publications in PNAS and Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. The prototype instrument resides at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and has been used in collaborative research with a number of scientists from institutions including: the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron research center (Germany), University of Edinburg (United Kingdom), the University of Texas at Austin (USA), and the University of Illinois (USA).  

Prototype instrument development and improvement is an ongoing process with each achievement paving the way for new advances. In 2015, principal investigator Alex Goncharov started a new collaboration with scientists from the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris, France, including Prof. F. Decremps, an expert in laser ultrasonics. The group has measured sound velocities of H2 and D2 up to 55 GPa in Paris. Next, with support from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, they will establish a laser ultrasonics system at the Geophysical Laboratory in Washington, DC. This additional capability will allow researchers to obtain revolutionary measurements, including the reaction mechanisms and kinetics of abiotic hydrocarbon generation, determination of sound velocities, and measurement of thermal conductivity of fluids under conditions of very high P (100 GPa) and T (4000°K). The science team is finalizing the proposed system’s design, but to continue advancing the instrument’s development and further leverage the DCO investment, Goncharov is submitting instrument proposals to multiple funding sources in the US and China.


Konôpková Z, McWilliams RS, Gómez-Pérez N, Goncharov AF (2016) Direct measurement of thermal conductivity in solid iron at planetary core conditions. Nature 534:99-101

McWilliams RS, Dalton DA, Mahmood MF, Goncharov AF (2016) Optical Properties of Fluid Hydrogen at the Transition to a Conducting State. Physical Review Letters 116: 255501

Lobanov S, Holtgrewe N, Goncharov AF (2016) Reduced radiative conductivity of low spin FeO6-octahedra in FeCO3 at high pressure and temperature. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 449:20–25 

McWilliams RS, Dalton DA, Konôpková A, Mahmood MF, Goncharov AF (2015) Opacity and conductivity measurements in noble gases at conditions of planetary and stellar interiors. PNAS 112:7925-7930 Publication Metadata

McWilliams RS, Konôpková Z, Goncharov AF (2015) A flash heating method for measuring thermal conductivity at high pressure and temperature: Application to Pt. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 247:17-26 Publication metadata

Goncharov AF, Lobanov SS, Tan X, Hohensee GT, Cahill DG, Lin J-F, Thomas S-M, Okuchi T, Tomioka N (2015) Experimental study of thermal conductivity at high pressures: Implications for the deep Earth’s interior. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 247:11-16 Publication Metadata

News Articles:

22 June 2016 Advancing Instrumentation to Study Materials and Reaction in Earth’s Deep Interior

01 June 2016 Geophysics: Earth's core problem

15 June 2015 Lab Mimicry Opens a Window to the Deep Interiors of Stars and Planets


High P-T Device for Experimental Studies on Hydrocarbons

brazhkin [at] hppi [dot] troitsk [dot] ru (Vadim Brazhkin), Inst. for High Pressure Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences

A new large-volume, high-pressure-temperature device was developed and constructed with partial DCO support to explore the possibility of abiogenic synthesis of complex hydrocarbon systems in the upper mantle, the thermodynamic conditions of the synthesis of deep hydrocarbons and their migration to the surface, as well as the mechanisms of hydrocarbon synthesis reactions at very high pressure. The DCO funds for this large-volume, high-pressure apparatus and initial research were supplemented by support from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Russian Academy of Sciences and other sources.

Construction of the high-pressure apparatus was completed at the end of 2011. Other preparatory and laboratory setup work followed, including experiments for pressure-temperature calibration. Principal investigator Vadim Brazhkin and his team began research experiments in 2012 and published results are expected by the end of 2014.

Modified Gas Chromatograph for Experimental Studies on Hydrocarbons

vladimir [dot] kutcherov [at] indek [dot] kth [dot] se (Vladimir Kutcherov), Moscow State Academy for Fine Chemical Technology

A modified gas chromatograph was developed with partial DCO support to help determine thermodynamic and chemical conditions required for abiogenic synthesis of complex hydrocarbons in the upper mantle, to investigate deep hydrocarbon synthesis and migration, and to explore the reaction mechanisms of hydrocarbon synthesis at high pressure. DCO funding for this instrument served as a catalyst to establish a new laboratory at Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas with Principal investigator Vladimir Kutcherov heading the lab. The Russian Ministry of Higher Education and Science supported the development of additional high-pressure equipment for the lab. Furthermore, Gubkin University provided support for lab salaries, computers, and lab supplies. The gas chromatograph itself is being used to analyze the reaction products from experiments conducted with the other new high-pressure equipment.

The chromatograph was installed in the new high-pressure laboratory at Gubkin University in October 2011 and tested afterwards. Dr. Kutcherov began the first series of experiments using the chromatograph in January 2012. The equipment will be available to others in the DCO community this year.

Extreme Conditions Instrumentation for Deep Carbon Science and New Generation, High-Resolution, Gas Source Mass Spectrometer

badro [at] ipgp [dot] fr (James Badro) and cartigny [at] ipgp [dot] jussieu [dot] fr (Pierre Cartigny), Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris

A number of instruments relevant to DCO interests are under development at IPGP. Principal investigator Pierre Cartigny focused on the technical challenges and feasibility of using trace amounts of oxygen in diamonds to constrain their source (subducted versus mantle) and the oxygen fugacity of the mantle fluids from which the diamonds grew. The DCO funding leveraged additional support from IPGP for the purchase of two cryostats for distillation/purification of trace amounts of O2 from CF4 that will result from diamond fluorination. The award also supported investigation of the capability of measuring the isotope composition of oxygen in the context of imperfect CF4/O2 separation using high-resolution, gas source mass spectrometry.

Principal investigator James Badro conducted preliminary tests on 3D laser nano-machining of samples for use in a laser-heated diamond anvil cell. Tests on silicates, carbonates, and metals have produced nearly perfect disks down to a 20-micron size. These preliminary results were used for leveraging a large pending proposal to the “Paris Ile-de-France Region.”

News Articles:

12 November 2013 Work Begins on Next Generation Sample Preparation Instrument

Combined Instrument for Molecular Imaging in Geochemistry (CIMIG)

asteele [at] ciw [dot] edu (Andrew Steele) (Carnegie Institution of Washington) PI, Recipient: Smithsonian Institution

Earth’s greatest potential carbon reservoirs are the lower mantle and core, where even a few parts per million (ppm) carbon in metallic or silicate phases could represent many times the confirmed planetary carbon content. This ambitious instrument is designed to address the challenge of measuring trace amounts of carbon (1 to 10 ppm) in a variety of geologically relevant samples, including mineral phases that are nominally acarbonaceous. The Combined Instrument for Molecular Imaging and Geochemistry (CIMIG) involves the modification of an existing $2 million Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) instrument at the Smithsonian Institution. It incorporates surface and depth profiling combined with an integrated sample preparation system for the detection and contamination-free 3-D mapping of inorganic and organic materials at ~100 nm spatial resolution. Nanoscale analysis is presently impossible by any other single technique. The combined instrument provides an unparalleled facility to analyze C-bearing samples that are not subject to the surficial contamination that plagues current instruments. It is being used to analyze a variety of samples, minute fluid inclusions, cellular fossil remains, bioflims, diamonds, and Martian meteorites.

A number of samples important to DCO have been analyzed using various techniques that comprise the CIMIG instrument, although the components have not yet been physically integrated. This work proves that integrating these instruments is both desirable and productive. A major challenge is procuring additional funds and better physical integration. To date, analyses have been targeted at specific science questions that are appealing to a diverse range of funding opportunities and for use in proposals to various funding agencies. Simultaneously, the science team is planning how to handle community input to the instrumentation through use of remote access software.


Labandeira C, Yang Q,  Santiago-Blay JA, Hotton CL, Monteiro A, Wang Y, Goreva Y,  Shih C, Siljeström S, Rose TR,  Dilcher DL, Ren D (2016) The evolutionary convergence of mid-Mesozoic lacewings and Cenozoic butterflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283:2893

Greenwalt DE, Rose TR, Siljeström SM, Goreva YS, Constenius KN, Wingerath JG (2015) Taphonomy of the fossil insects of the middle Eocene Kishenehn Formation. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 60(4):931-947

Tang M, Arevalo Jr. R, Goreva Y, McDonough W (2015) Elemental fractionation during condensation of plasma plumes generated by laser ablation: a ToF-SIMS study of condensate blankets. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry (11):2316-2322

Bryson KL, Salama F, Elsaesser A, Peeters Z, Ricco AJ, Foing BH, Goreva Y (2015) First results of the ORGANIC experiment on EXPOSE-R on the ISS. International Journal of Astrobiology 14 (1):55-66

Siljeström S, Freissinet C, Goesmann F, Steininger H, Goetz W, Steele A, Amundsen H, and the AMASE11 team (2014) Comparison of prototype and laboratory experiments on MOMA GCMS; results from the AMASE11 campaign. Astrobiology 14(9):780-797

Ivarsson M, Broman C, Sturkell E, Ormö J, Siljeström S, van Zuilen M,  Bengtson S (2013) Fungal colonization of an Ordovician impact-induced hydrothermal system. Scientific Reports 3:3487

Greenwalt D, Goreva Y, Siljeström S, Rose T, Harbach RE (2013) The last supper: Hemoglobin-derived porphyrins preserved in a Middle Eocene blood-engorged mosquito. PNAS 110(46):18496–18500

Novel Large-Volume Diamond Anvil Cell (LV-DAC)

mguthrie [at] ciw [dot] edu (Malcolm Guthrie), Carnegie Institution of Washington

Designing and constructing a new generation of large-volume apparatus is critical to accomplish DCO’s decadal goals to investigate reactions under the extreme pressure and temperature conditions of Earth’s mantle; particularly reactions involving the evolution of mantle fluid phases. The “traditional” diamond-anvil cell (DAC) has become ubiquitous for experiments at P > 10 GPa, where only a microscopic volume is required. DACs provide access to a range of pressure-temperature conditions common throughout the mantle and approaching those of Earth’s inner core, while providing optical access to an environment that is chemically inert. However, for certain critical techniques the microscopic volumes of traditional DAC designs are insufficient. To address this need for increased volume, the science team proposed to develop a novel cell with single-crystal diamond apertures and target volumes of 0.1-1.0 mm3 capable of operating at pressures of more than 50 GPa. In addition to facilitating neutron diffraction in new regimes of pressure, this device—for the first time—will permit laser-heating techniques to provide access to unprecedented high temperatures (>1000°C).

The science team initially held off in using the DCO/Sloan support in order to complete and leverage the results of a related project funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) via the Energy Frontier Research in Extreme Environments (EFree) program. The EFree-funded adaptation of conventional DAC design proved quite successful and brought the science team much closer to achieving their goals for the DCO project. The EFree experience provided clear concepts that they are now building upon in order to make another leap forward.


Guthrie M, Pruteanu CG, Donnelly M-E, Molaison JJ, dos Santos AM, Loveday JS, Boehlerc R, Tulk CA (2017) Radiation attenuation by single-crystal diamond windows. Journal of Applied Crystallography 50(1):1-11

DCO Computer Cluster

pfox [at] cs [dot] rpi [dot] edu (Peter Fox), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Now installed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, USA, the DCO Computer Cluster comprises a PSSC Labs PowerWulf MMx Cluster with 640 Intel® Xeon® 2.4 GHz Compute Processor Cores and 544GB System Memory - 1GB Memory Per Compute Processor Core. The cluster (accessed via has 154TB of System Storage, a high-speed internal InfiniBand network, and a fast backup system. Providing all DCO Communities with state-of-the-art computer power for performing a wide range of calculations, the Linux cluster can run a variety of scientific programs aimed at modeling chemical and physical processes in deep Earth and carrying out data analyses. The cluster is currently managed by a team of DCO representatives under the technical guidance of Peter Fox, the DCO Data Science Team Leader, with scientific oversight from the Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community. Access to the cluster is available to all DCO researchers to use for targeted investigations. See this page for more information regarding access including the allocation request form. Questions about the DCO Computer Cluster may be directed to computer_request [at] deepcarbon [dot] net.

Making high-end computational services available to DCO collaborators was identified as a critical issue for addressing DCO’s Decadal Goals. Soon after the DCO was launched, a clear consensus emerged that it should have its own computation center with a dedicated cluster that would enable it to organize and prioritize computational runs for DCO needs, without the long waiting times involved at national facilities. From chemical and physical modeling to genomic analyses, the DCO Computer Cluster can run numerous software packages and scientific programs for theoretical calculations of C-bearing phase structures and properties, geodynamics calculations, thermochemical modeling, and other computations.


Pan D and Galli G (2016) The fate of carbon dioxide in water-rich fluids under extreme conditions. Science Advances 2:e1601278

Patankar S, Gautam S, Rother G, Podlesnyak A, Ehlers G, Liu T, Cole DR, Tomasko DL (2016) Role of Confinement on Adsorption and Dynamics of Ethane and an Ethane–CO2 Mixture in Mesoporous CPG Silica. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 120(9):4843-4853

Gautam S, Tingting L, Patankar S, Tomasko D, Cole D (2016) Location dependent orientational structure and dynamics of ethane in ZSM5. Chemical Physics Letters 648:130-136

Boulard E, Pan D, Galli G, Liu Z, Mao W (2015) Tetrahedrally coordinated carbonates in Earth’s lower mantle. Nature Communications 6(6311)

Gautam S, Cole DR (2015) Molecular dynamics simulation study of meso-confined propane in TiO2. Chemical Physics 458:68-76

Pan D, Wan Q, Galli G (2014) The refractive index and electronic gap of water and ice increase with increasing pressure. Nature Communications 5(3919)


Gautam S, Liu T, Rother G, Jalarvo N, Mamontov E, Welch S, Cole D (2014) Effect of temperature and pressure on the dynamics of nanoconfined propane. AIP Conference Proceedings 1591:1353-1355

News Articles

26 October 2016 New Study of Carbon and Water at the Bottom of Earth’s Upper Mantle Challenges Previous Models

18 February 2015 Novel Carbon Bonding at High Pressure

27 May 2014 Water Surprises Again: Light Refraction and Absorption Under Pressure

26 November 2013 DCO Computer Cluster Comes Online