RG Technology and Metrology

The Metrology and Technology working group is concerned both with the development of new and innovative analytical instruments and technologies and with the implementation of fundamental metrological principles of analytical chemistry. For this purpose, innovative analytical instruments and technologies are developed and evaluated. New metrological principles are validated and transferred into analytical routines.

Current projects

Abstract: Metal hyperaccumulation is a fascinating phenomenon. About 1% of higher plant species are able to accumulate 100-1000 times higher concentrations of trace elements than “normal” or nonaccumulating plant species in their aboveground tissues without showing any symptoms of toxicity. Most of these species accumulate nickel, whereas the accumulation of other elements (e.g. arsenic, cadmium, zinc) is much less frequent. While physiological and molecular processes have already been investigated in depth, Ni solubilisation processes in the rhizosphere are still largely unknown.

Novel rhizosphere research methods, including root exudate analysis from soil grown plants and highend isotope ratio analytics may offer new opportunities for gaining detailed insight into biogeochemical processes in the rhizosphere of Nickel hyperaccumulators.

This project aims to elucidate plant/microbe induced Nickel solubilisation mechanisms by assessing biogeochemical changes in the rhizosphere induced by roots and associated microorganisms. Isotope ratio analysis will be developed and implemented as a novel tool in rhizosphere research and applied for determining the major soil Ni pools acting as a source for plant-available nickel.

  • Project funding: FWF Austrian Science Fund
  • Project partners: The project is based at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU Wien).
  • Project start: September 2021
  • Project end: August 2024

Team-MUL: Thomas Prohaska (PI), Alexander Epov, Stepan Chernonozhkin, Johanna Irrgeher

Team-Cooperating institutions: Markus Puschenreiter (PI-BOKU), Alice Tognacchini (BOKU), Olivier Donard (PAU, CNRS)


Ca isotopes as tracers in life sciences

Abstract: Biological processes like biomineralization and the human Ca homeostasis produces significant fractionation of Ca isotopes. The analysis of Ca isotopes in biological tissue, including human bone, blood, urine and hair, has great potential to identify changes in Ca metabolism and bone metabolism, which are linked e.g. to increased bone resorption due to a disease like senile osteoporosis, multiple myeloma, kidney diseases, and diabetes. In this project, we developed a fully validated double-spike MC TIMS measurement procedure to determine low-amount Ca isotope ratios in limited biological samples. Further, for the first time Ca isotopic analysis of hair reference materials indicated a potential fractionation of Ca incorporated into hair tissue when compared to the blood pool. The laboratory work was contucted at the University of Calgary (Canada) in Professor Mike Wieser’s Isotope Lab.

  • Project funding: Chemical Monthly fellowship (2018) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), Discovery Research Grant by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Faculty of Science Grand Challenges Fund of the University of Calgary.
  • Project partners: University of Calgary, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Stable Isotope Laboratory, Canada
  • Project start: January 2019

Publications: Retzmann, A., Walls, D., Miller, K., Wieser, M., Irrgeher, J., & Prohask, T. (2021). Assessing the potential of online ICP–MS analysis to optimize Ca/ matrix separation using DGA Resin for subsequent isotopic analysis. Monatshefte für Chemie, 152, 401-410. doi:10.1007/s00706-021-02754-2

Retzmann, A., Walls, D., Miller, K. A., Irrgeher, J., Prohaska, P., Wieser, M. E. (2021). A double-spike MC TIMS measurement procedure for low-amount Ca isotopic analysis of limited biological samples. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. doi: 10.1007/s00216-021-03650-8

Team-MUL: Anika Retzmann, Michael E. Wieser, Dorothy Walls, Kerri A. Miller, Johanna Irrgeher, Thomas Prohaska


Development of a combined analytical approach for in situ spatiotemporal solute imaging of aqueous metal corrosion dynamics

Abstract: The aim of this project is to explore the potential of a combined analytical approach using the diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) technique and planar optodes to assess the spatiotemporal dynamics of metal corrosion on the example of fine-structured materials made from magnesium (Mg) alloys. Owing to their good biocompatibility and mechanical properties, these materials are intensely studied for their use as biodegradable implants in medicine. The combined analytical approach represents a powerful tool in Mg corrosion research and may substantially contribute to obtain adequate information on metal degradation processes.

Project partners: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU)

Project start: January 2018

Team-MUL:  Stefan Wagner, Johanna Irrgeher, Thomas Prohaska (PI)

Team-Cooperating institutions: Christina Hummel (BOKU), Jakob Santner (BOKU), Markus Puschenreiter (BOKU)



“ISOprint” - Development of “Diffusive Gradient in Thin Films (DGT) – multi-collector ICP-MS techniques” for location-specific isotopic fingerprinting of S, Sr and Pb in soils as a tool for the provenance determination of primary agricultural products

Abstract: The project aims at developing a method combining diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) with multi collector ICP-MS to assess the isotopic composition of the DGT-labile (i.e. reversibly adsorbed (bound)) fraction of sulfate-S, Sr and Pb in soils. One major motivation and envisaged application of the development is the consideration that the combination of these isotopic signatures has the potential to act as direct geographic location-specific fingerprint for the provenance determination of primary agricultural products. The project will be accomplished by developing and characterizing adequate gels. Greenhouse experiments will provide more detailed information about the transfer of the soil isotopic fingerprint into plants. The method will be tested on selected primary agricultural products by analyzing both plants as well as the DGT-labile fraction.

Project funding: FWF Stand Alone Project

Project partners: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), TrisKem International, KU Leuven

Project start: January 2018
Project end: March 2022


  • Wagner, S; Hoefer, C; Puschenreiter, M; Wenzel, W; Oburger, E; Hann, S; Robinson, B; Kretzschmar, R; Santner, J. Arsenic redox transformations and cycling in the rhizosphere of Pteris vittata and Pteris quadriaurita. Environmental and Experimental Botany, 2020, 177, 104122. doi.org/10.1016/j.envexpbot.2020.104122
  • Wagner, S; Hoefer, C; Prohaska, T; Santner, J. Two-Dimensional Visualization and Quantification of Labile, Inorganic Plant Nutrients and Contaminants in Soil. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 2020, 163, e61661. doi.org/10.3791/61661
  • Smolders, E; Wagner, S; Prohaska, T; Irrgeher, J; Santner, J. Sub-millimeter distribution of labile trace element fluxes in the rhizosphere explains differential effects of soil liming on cadmium and zinc uptake in maize. Science of the Total Environment, 2020, 738, 140311. doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140311

Project Team:  Stefan Wagner, Jakob Santner, Ara Bitar, Sarah Mühlbacher, Thomas Prohaska (PI)

Team-Cooperating institutions: Jakob Santner (BOKU), Markus Puschenreiter (BOKU), Steffen Happel (TrisKem International), Erik Smolders (KU Leuven)



Abstract: The project isoTRAC aims at fostering the Styrian research node of analytical sciences of the Universities Montanuniversität Leoben, University Graz and TU Graz:

  1. to establish a modern mass spectrometer (thermal ionization mass spectrometer - TIMS) for the highly precise analysis of new isotope systems and
  2. to investigate new isotope systems in the environmental sciences (characterization of fine dust), geosciences (characterization of deposits) and materials science (abrasion behavior of refractory materials)
  • Project funding: ZUKUNFTSFONDS STEIERMARK – Das Land Steiermark
  • Project partners: Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (KFU) - Institut für Chemie; Institut für Erdwissenschaften
  • Project periode: March 2019 – August 2021

Project Team: Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (KFU) - Institut für Chemie; Institut für Erdwissenschaften, Lehrstuhl für Allgemeine und Analytische Chemie, Montanuniversität Leoben – Thomas Prohaska (PI)

Project report (German) as pdf