SMALLER, BETTER, MORE: FIVE DECADES OF ADVANCES IN GEOCHEMISTRY. PART 1 - INORGANIC GEOCHEMISTRY
The technical advances that have occurred have been remarkable. Determination of elemental compositions of minerals and rocks, either through in situ analysis by various techniques (e.g., electron microprobe, SIMS, synchrotron XRF, laser ablation) or bulk analysis (e.g., XRF, ICP-AES, ICP-MS), have become essential approaches to many geochemical studies at levels of sensitivity and spatial resolution undreamed of five decades ago. Isotopic variations, whether produced by stable or radiogenic isotopes, provide a third dimension to the Periodic Table, and tremendous advances in instrumentation since the early 1960s have broadened this field of geochemistry. Mass spectrometers have diversified greatly in design and capability over the last five decades (e.g., IRMS, TIMS, MC-ICP-MS, SIMS), allowing isotopic analysis of many elements across the Periodic Table, including via in situ methods. As computing power has rapidly increased, geochemical modeling tools have become more sophisticated.
The individual sub-fields of geochemistry are becoming increasingly integrated, where systems are now viewed in a more holistic fashion, rather than in isolation related to a specific method or technique. This seems likely to continue in the future, and such an approach offers a comprehensive way to test multiple hypotheses and address geologic questions that continue to be important as we use geochemistry to better understand the geologic history of Earth and the solar system.