The Plasma Centre of the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences was opened on 26 May in Askja, the Natural Sciences Building at the University of Iceland.
The centre will play a vital role in geochemistry research here in Iceland and therefore represents a major step forward for the field, says Sæmundur Ari Halldórsson, research scholar at the Institute of Earth Sciences and one of the champions of the new centre. "The Plasma Centre will support a large number of research projects conducted in collaboration with scientists here in Iceland and abroad, dramatically improve safety standards and guarantee more precise chemical analysis. At the same time, these new research facilities will no doubt create a range of opportunities for future research in geochemistry and related fields."
The Plasma Centre contains, for example, a state-of-the-art clean room, which has been developed over recent semesters. "Access to a space like this will really revolutionise research in this field in Iceland. It also features specialised, acid resistant and low metal furnishings as well as flow hoods. The space is therefore incredibly important for geochemistry research because it enables scientists, for example, to use trace elements, which are found in extremely small amounts in nature, to understand the processes that govern the distribution of elements in the earth." As well as the clean room, the Plasma Centre features three so-called ICP devices (inductively coupled plasma), which are used to conduct chemical analysis on major elements and trace elements in liquids and rocks, as well as analysis of isotope proportion in chemical elements.
The air conditioning in the part of Askja that houses the centre was also thoroughly renovated. "We have been working together very successfully with the Division of Operations and Resources at the University of Iceland, which is very important because this was a technically complex project."
The project was funded by a grant from the Icelandic Centre for Research, but the University of Iceland Division of Operations and Resources funded the necessary structural changes to the building. The Icelandic Centre for Research also provided a grant to update and improve the available equipment.
At the ceremony last week, Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, and Sigurður Magnús Garðarsson, Dean of the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences, gave short speeches. Sæmundur Ari also told guests a little about the centre and took small groups to tour the facilities.