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Stable Isotope Laboratory

Lab Services

Analysis   Analysis Mode Sample Volume Precision (‰) Cost Per Analysis Time
C & O: carbon dioxide δ13C
dual inlet 400 cc minimum
1 Liter preferred
$60 4-6 wks
C: atm. methane δ13C continuous flow 40 cc minimum
1 Liter preferred
±0.04 $240 4-6 wks
C: soil carbon dioxide δ13C
continuous flow 1 ml minimum
50 ml preferred
Contact us Contact us
H: liquid water & ice δD dual inlet 2ml minimum
15 ml preferred
±0.5 $50 4-6 wks
O: liquid water & ice δ18O dual inlet 2 ml minimum
15 ml preferred
±0.07 $50 4-6 wks
C: organics δ13C continuous flow 10-50mg Carbon required ±0.30 $24 4-6 wks
H: atm. methane δD continuous flow 150 cc minimum ±1.5 Contact us Contact us


Sample Volume First line is amount needed for analyses; second line is the desired amount of sample to be submitted, to allow enough for replicate analyses.
Precision is the average standard deviation (1-sigma) in per mille units.
Cost Per Analysis is an estimate for off-campus non-academic research, including commercial parties and governmental agencies. Prices are lower for academic projects and university research. Assistance with interpretation of data is available. We do not attempt to compete with commercial labs. Students, please see note below.
Analysis time is an average turnaround time for a small number of samples (1-50). Actual time may be shorter or longer depending on machine performance, barring mechanical failures beyond our control.


Contact us with questions you may have about your analysis.
Please email us notification and an electronic sample list PRIOR to shipping your samples.


PLEASE DO NOT SEND SAMPLES BY STANDARD US POSTAL SERVICE.  Choose a street delivery service such as FedEx, UPS, etc. We request that you email us with an electronic list (spreadsheet) of sample IDs, so that we can avoid any possibility of data entry typos on our end. If possible, espeically with large sample sets, we appreciate some organization of the samples in the shipping container, so we don't have to re-order them. Send samples to:

Bruce H. Vaughn
INSTAAR Stable Isotope Laboratory
1560 30th Street
Boulder, CO 80303

phone 303 492-7985 lab


  • We will bill your university/party/agency after the work is completed.
  • Most universities pay with a purchase order or credit card.
  • We can pre-bill if requested.

Note to students

  • We strongly support student projects, both graduate and undergraduate.
  • If you have a limited number of samples, and an even more limited source of funding, we may be able to help.
  • Contact us for details.

Standard gases

We also perform calibration of clean dry air cylinders typically filled at the Niwot clean air site by NOAA personnel. Calibrated tanks can be obtained from NOAA CMDL, analyzed for mixing ratios of a suite of greenhouse gases, including CO, CO2, N2O, and CH4. For more information, visit the NOAA CMDL standard-gases web site: If in doubt, please contact us. Reference cylinders usuallly require analyses made over a period of weeks to verify the stability of the standard air before it can be released and certified for use. Turnaround times can vary, depending on the performance of the cylinder. Tyically we make approximately 30 measurements over a period of 6 to 12 weeks. Actual time may be shorter or longer depending on machine and cylinder performance, barring any mechanical failures beyond our control. Please contact us for current estimates.

In development

We are currently developing a system to analyse atmospheric water vapor for both hydrogen and oxygen isotopes based on GC-IRMS (Gas Chromatography - Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry). The amount of water needed in this technique is many orders of magnitude less than in conventional techniques, nanoliters as opposed to milliliters. The volume of air sample needed, ~1 to 40 cm3, is small enough to permit sampling via aircraft based systems, eddy flux accumulators, and other low volume samplers. Samples can be taken rapidly, and with high temporal resolution heretofore impractical, if not impossible.

Contact Information

(Phone) 303 492-5495
4001 Discovery Dr
Boulder, CO 80303

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