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UH Manoa to create a new cosmochemistry laboratory

Lab will be amongst the world's most advanced researching star and planet formation and evolution

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Mia Noguchi, (808) 956-9095
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: May 26, 2005

HONOLULU — The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa will create a new cosmochemistry laboratory that will enable researchers to build on the success of its cosmochemistry program. Its center piece will feature a state-of-the-art ion microprobe, an instrument that allows not only determination of the trace element contents of microscopically small samples, but also their isotopic compositions. The laboratory will be amongst the most advanced of its kind in the world, enabling UH‘s internationally renowned scientists to work on problems such as the formation and evolution of stars, planets and the solar system.

The new instrument and laboratory will be located in the Hawaiʻi Institute for Geophysics and Planetology of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at UH Mānoa. Installation of the ion microprobe will take place in 2006 and research will begin that fall. The new ion microprobe is anticipated to ignite research among cosmochemists and astronomers to fuel studies of the origin of the solar system, including the Earth.

Cosmochemistry focuses on laboratory analyses of meteorites, lunar samples, interplanetary dust particles, and interstellar grains, as well as experimental simulations of planetary, nebular, and circumstellar processes. A great deal of what is known about the origin and evolution of extraterrestrial bodies is due to these efforts.

The cosmochemistry program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has direct connections with many current and planned spacecraft missions that will return samples, such as Genesis, Stardust, and Mars sample return missions. The program also provides information critical for the interpretation of remote sensing data. In addition, the program addresses questions posed by materials derived from places where no spacecraft could ever go, such as into the deep interiors of stars or planets, or back in time.

"With the funding for the Cameca ims 1280 ion microprobe secured, it will be possible for our research group to really make a quantum leap forward in the field of cosmochemistry," said Dr. Klaus Keil, interim dean of SOEST. "We have a stellar group of core investigators and are particularly excited that we were able to add Dr. Gary Huss, formerly of Arizona State University, and Dr. Kazu Nagashima, formerly of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, both world-renowned experts in ion microprobe analysis and cosmochemistry, to our team."

The new cosmochemistry laboratory is being built with the support of a $1.5 million grant the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation received from the W.M. Keck Foundation and a one-time $1 million commitment from the University of Hawaiʻi. In addition, acquisition of the ion microprobe for the laboratory was selected as one of seven proposals, out of a total of 17 submitted, approved for funding in 2004 through NASA‘s Sample Return Laboratory Instruments and Data Analysis Program (SRLIDAP). This program has provided an additional $1.4 million grant to support the new laboratory.

About the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) was established by the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaiʻi in 1988. SOEST brings together in a single focused ocean, earth sciences and technology group, some of the nation‘s highest quality academic departments, research institutes, federal cooperative programs, and support facilities to meet challenges in the ocean and earth sciences, including the Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP). Scientists at SOEST are supported by both state and federal funds as they endeavor to understand the subtle and complex interrelations of the seas, the atmosphere, and the earth.