Press Releases

New Picarro Water Isotope Analyzer Makes The Quantum Performance Leap with Per Meg Precision

Santa Clara, CA - August 24, 2011: Picarro, the world’s leading provider of instruments for carbon and water cycle measurements, announced today the L2130-i, a new water isotope analyzer that advances measurement precision to a new level enabling scientists unprecedented capability to measure fine scale changes in the global water cycle or extractions from a milligram of tissue. With typical instrument precision of 11 per meg for oxygen and 38 per meg for hydrogen in water, the performance is up to an order of magnitude better than that typically produced by isotope ratio mass spectrometers. Low isotopes concentrations have historically been expressed as ‘per mil’ , which is the ratio between two samples multiplied by a factor 1000. A ‘per meg’ is 1000 times more precise than a ‘per mil’.  

In addition to unrivaled precision, the L2130-i has nearly immeasurable drift. This unprecedented stability allows researchers to measure routine samples quickly and to significantly reduce the frequency of calibration.  The stability improvements also maximize performance when data averaging, thereby enabling scientists to reach precision levels of 5 per meg (0.005 per mil) for exceptionally demanding applications such as the paleoclimatological studies of ice cores.   “When I first saw the initial data results from this analyzer, I nearly fell off my chair,” said Bruce Vaughn, senior professional scientist and stable isotope expert at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “The precision is so much higher than anything we have seen before.  This could significantly reduce some of the uncertainty in ice core measurements.”

This new level of performance opens new applications in research areas where insights into physical processes are dependent upon understanding very small isotopic signals. These applications include studies of ice cores, tracing water vapor sources throughout the atmosphere, and discovering subtle shifts in fresh water sources and water sheds to including changes in ground water associated with anthropogenic pollution. Previously such measurements were accessible to only a handful of specially equipped labs. In contrast, the Picarro L2130-i analyzer, at only 50 pounds, is field portable and designed to endure transportation and harsh environmental conditions from the Arctic to the Amazon while delivering the same per meg precision level measurements.

The Picarro L2130-i is the core of the industry’s only modular platform that can measure water isotopes in all three matrices - solids, liquids, and vapor in a field or laboratory setting. The L2130-i integrates seamlessly with Picarro’s patent-pending Induction Module for thermal extraction of water from solids, the patent-pending Micro-Pyrolysis Module for complete removal of interfering organics,  high-precision vaporizers and autosamplers, and Picarro’s Standards Delivery Module – the only dual-standard field-ready system on the market today.

“This new instrument is a testament to our team’s enduring quest to build instruments so powerful and simple to use that scientists can pursue new lines of scientific inquiry that were previously impossible even in the world’s best laboratories,” says Picarro CEO Michael Woelk. “By producing instruments with per meg precision, we clearly offer the world’s finest water isotope instrument - bar none.”

With instruments installed in 54 countries and operated on all seven continents by thousands of scientists and engineers, Picarro analyzers are the global gold standard for greenhouse gas measurement and the most widely sold instruments for stable isotope measurements. To meet the exacting needs of institutional customers that include leading universities and global corporations, Picarro is committed to designing innovative instruments that enable anyone to make world-class measurements anywhere on Earth and inform critical research, policy and business decisions related to changes in the global carbon, water and nitrogen cycles.