Welcome to the website of the Noble Gas Geochemistry group of the University of Manchester

You can navigate through the site via the tabs at the top of the page, and within each tab via the sliding out panels to the left.

Welcome to the mobile/small screen version of NobleGasGeochemistry.com.

You can navigate the various research areas using the menu above, within which you will find links to specific research topics that are investigated at the University of Manchester.

Carbon Storage

Project Overview

The global surface temperature and ocean heat content have increased since the early 20th century. The warming of the climate system is primarily caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. The consequences of global warming include shift of weather pattern, melting of glaciers, sea level rising, leading to reduced water and food resources for human and serious adverse effects on ecosystems.

According to IPCC, emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG) will increase the average global temperature by 1.1 to 6.4oC by the end of the 21st century. It has therefore stated that global GHG emissions should be reduced by 50 to 80 percent by 2050.

CO2 is the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas, there are several suggested ways to store it in order to reduce the climate effect. Such as ocean storage and mineral carbonation and industrial uses of CO2, in addition to these trapping mechanisms, underground geological storage provide one of the best solutions. Depleted oil and gas fields and deep saline groundwater formations are proposed sites for geological sequestration of CO2. However, the trapping mechanism, physical and chemical processes and security issues associated with CO2 sequestration have not been understood fully and remain open science questions.

Hydrocarbon Systems

Project Overview

Noble gases have proven to be a versatile tool in the investigation of natural gas and hydrocarbon systems. They are chemically inert and occur in small enough quantities for noble gas production from natural radioactivity to significantly alter their isotopic signature, providing fluid source and age information. Similarly, small quantities of magmatic fluid addition or noble gases derived from the atmosphere, dissolved in groundwater, are readily resolved due to their respective unique isotopic signature.

The processes that control the amount of noble gases dissolved in water at recharge are understood well enough to invert observed groundwater noble gas concentrations to derive the temperature of water recharge and past climate information. If the groundwater contacts either oil or a gas phases, the noble gases are partitioned between the phases in proportion to their solubility. The concentration and relative proportions of the 'groundwater' derived noble gases in the sample oil or gas phase then have the potential to provide a quantitative measure of the volume of water contacted by that phase and whether in an open or closed system.

Water Tracers

Project Overview

In today's world there is an ever increasing pressure on natural resources, and drinking water in particular. The age of an underground water mass determines whether it is a finite resource and provides an understanding of how it migrates and mixes in complex geological strata. This detail may provide the key to understanding how arsenic is released from sediments into drinking water supplies in large parts of Asia - and must be understood to avoid new drinking water resources suffering from the same problem in the future.

Climate change remains a core concern of society. Central to understanding climate is an understanding of how the oceans transport heat, provide a sink or source for the atmosphere CO2, and provides a host for nutrients that stimulate biological systems that also play a key role in atmosphere CO2 control. Noble gases play a key role in tracing ocean circulation and nutrient input.


The Origin, Accretion and Differentiation of Extreme Volatiles in Terrestrial Planets

Identifying the mechanisms by which the terrestrial planets acquired, retained and redistributed extreme volatiles and highly incompatible elements remains a fundamental challenge in the Earth and planetary sciences. The halogens, Cl, Br and I, are highly incompatible, volatile and represent a powerful potential tracer of these processes. Although Cl is readily analysed, the concentrations of Br and I within most samples of interest are below the detection limit of conventional techniques and the halogens as a tracer set has been almost completely ignored.
Neutron irradiation of samples converts halogens to noble gas isotopes that can be measured by conventional or laser resonance mass spectrometry. Pioneered by Manchester, this innovation in analytical technique development now provides detection limits that far exceed any other approach, is independent of matrix effects, and links the halogen results to naturally occurring noble gases; a key tracer set that Manchester has a lot of experience in interpreting.

NOBLE - ERC Grant Agreement No: 267692
Funded under the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and supported by The European Research Council (ERC)
Project full title: The Origin, Accretion and Differentiation of Extreme Volatiles in Terrestrial Planets
Start Date: 1st April 2011
Duration: 60 Months
Principal Investigator: Prof Christopher John Ballentine, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences,The University of Manchester

The Earth's Mantle

Project Overview

The isotopic difference in noble gases at mid ocean ridges compared with those at ocean islands has formed a cornerstone in identifying distinct geochemical reservoirs in the mantle that have persisted since Earth formation. For over a quarter of a century this evidence was used to argue that the silicate mantle is geochemically layered and that only the upper 30% of the mantle has played a significant role in continental crust formation or in sourcing volatiles to the oceans and atmosphere.

In the last decade our understanding of the way in which the Earth works has undergone a radical change. Evidence from seismic tomography as well as numerical simulations of mantle convection now show that the phase change at 670km, thought to separate the chemically layered mantle, does not provide any barrier to efficient mixing of the whole mantle system.

This leaves us with a basic question: Where are the reservoirs in the mantle that preserve the accretionary gases trapped in the mantle and what mechanism prevents these reseroirs from being mixing into and lost within the convecting mantle?

At Manchester we have a significant track record in using mantle noble gas isotopes to investigate the character and origin of the volatiles in the mantle and have made new advances towards unraveling this conundrum.


Dingue3 logo

NobleGasGeochemistry.com hosts the official website of the 3rd D.I.N.G.U.E. Conference, to be held on the 24th and 25th August 2013 at the University of Florence, Italy (immediately prior to the 2013 Goldschmidt conference).

Click the image to visit the DINGUE 3 homepage