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Trace Element Research Laboratory

The Trace Element Research Laboratory (TERL),  directed by Dr. John Olesik, has world-class capabilities for elemental chemical measurements for an incredibly wide variety of applications in earth, environmental, chemical, biological, medical and materials sciences.  Superb expertise and state of the art inductively coupled plasma based optical emission and mass spectrometry instruments are available. Most of the elements in the periodic table (other than C, N, O, F and noble gas elements) can be measured at concentrations from major (%) to ultratrace (part per trillion). Measurements can be made on solution samples, solids following digestion or, using laser ablation sampling, directly on solids.

The TERL provides facilities and expertise to researchers, students and faculty throughout The Ohio State University in variety of ways.   Properly trained researchers, students and faculty can use the facilities independently or in collaboration with our staff.  On the other extreme, TERL staff discuss research or analyses problems of interest with faculty, students or clients, design the appropriate measurements, make the measurements and provide analysis results. Our mission includes teaching of the fundamental concepts and practical measurement techniques through traditional courses, short courses and one-on-one sessions.  The TERL encourages faculty to use the facilities and staff expertise in their teaching activities.

We also provide services and expertise to other Universities, government organizations, individuals and industry at rates on a par with commercial laboratories with a special emphasis on unique method development and problem solving. Please contact Dr. Olesik at olesik.2@osu.edu or (614) 292-6954 for more information.

TERL Personnel

Dr. John Olesik, TERL Director

Anthony Lutton, Research Associate, Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectroscopy

Instruments and Measurement Capabilities

Development of New Measurement Capabilities

TERL researchers are investigating the fundamental processes involved in analytical techniques for elemental analysis in order to improve analysis precision, accuracy and application to a wide range of sample types. New techniques are being developed to quantiatively rapidly determine not only total elemental concentrations, but also elemental speciation (oxidation state, free inorganic ion vs. metal-ligand complex vs. organometallic molecule) at concentrations as low as part per billion.

Access to TERL Facilities and TERL Users

TERL facilities are highly accessible to students, faculty and researchers at The Ohio State University.

TERL facilities are used in traditional courses in the School of Earth Sciences as well as other Departments. Students, faculty and researchers have the opportunity to learn how to use instruments in the TERL for their own research and education.

Our clients come from a wide variety of disciplines including Earth Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering, Dentistry, Natural Resources, Environmental Sciences, Food Science and Technology, Chemistry, Physics and the College of Medicine. Students and researchers from more than 30 different departments throughout The Ohio State University use the TERL facilities and expertise.

Students, faculty and researchers from other Ohio universities are also welcome at the TERL.

The TERL also carries out research and sample analysis for industries. The fee structure for these clients is commensurate with commercial laboratories.

TERL Laboratory Facilities and Locations 

TERL Facilities are state of the art laboratories and offices on the ground floor of the renovated Mendenhall Laboratories.

The instrument laboratories have excellent temperature control and HEPA filtered air for optimum instrument performance.

Outstanding facilities for physical and chemical sample preparation are available, including a Class 10 laminar flow exhausting hood and laminar flow workbench).

Internal Customer Pricing:

  • OSU Staff time (RA) $50.00 per hour 
  • OSU Staff time (GRA) $40.00 per hour 
  • OSU Staff time (Res. Scientist) $200.00 per hour 
  • OSU ICP-OES $50.00 per hour 
  • OSU ICP-MS $70.00 per hour 
  • OH ICP-SFMS $90.00 per hour 
  • OSU LA-ICP-MS $100.00 per hour
  • OSU Microwave digestion sample preparation $25.00 per batch 
  • OSU materials (bottles, acids, etc) 1.5x our purchase cost

Room Locations

Offices (Room 026)

  • John Olesik 026D
  • Anthony Lutton 026B
  • Patrick Gray 026A
  • Josh Dettman 026A


  • Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (Room 031)
  • Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (Room 031)
  • Physical sample preparation (Rooms 025, 025B)
  • Chemical sample preparation (Room 028)

TERL Short Courses in Analytical Methods

Collision/Reaction Cells to Overcome Spectral Overlaps in ICP-MS

4 1/2 day short course including both lecture/discussion and hands-on use of ICP-reaction cell-MS instrument.

Dates/Location of next class to be announced. Please contact Dr. Olesik if interested.

Mass spectral overlaps due to ions other than the element of interest that occur at the same nominal mass as the element of interest have long been a major limitation of ICP-MS. Collision/reaction cells provide a means to overcome spectral overlaps in ICP-MS, resulting in improved accuracy and up to orders of magnitude better detection limits. This intensive, 4-day course will cover the fundamental concepts and practical use of collision/reaction cells in ICP-MS.

The purpose of the short course will be to provide participants with sufficient knowledge and insight into the use of ion-molecule reactions in collision/reaction cells to efficiently overcome spectral overlaps in practical ICP-MS analyses. The course will include lecture, discussion and extensive (4 days, 3 hours each day) hands-on laboratory sessions with 2 to 3 people per ICP-Dynamic Reaction Cell-MS instrument. The course is designed for participants who have a working knowledge of ICP-MS but does not assume familiarity with collision/reaction cells. The course will be particularly useful for those who want to learn about the concepts, capabilities and practical applications of collision/reaction cells either for use on instruments they now have or instruments that may be purchased in the future.

Course instructor: Prof. John W. Olesik, Director of the Trace Element Research Laboratory (TERL) at The Ohio State University. John has more than 25 years of experience in ICP-MS. His teaching philosophy is that even seemingly complex topics are just a combination of simple concepts. The TERL provides elemental chemical analysis using ICP-OES, ICP-MS and Laser Ablation-ICP-MS to clients in and external to the University. The TERL collaborates with scientists in a variety of disciplines including earth sciences, natural resources, materials science, chemistry, biology and medical sciences. In addition, the TERL is conducting research to better understand the chemical and physical processes that control ICP-OES, ICP-MS and laser ablation signals while developing new capabilities including elemental speciation.

Space in the short course will be limited in order to maximize hands-on use of the instruments.

Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission and Mass Spectrometry for Elemental Analysis Short Course

To be taught on dates depending on demand. 

Instructor: Dr. John Olesik (phone: 292-6954, FAX: 292-7688; E-mail: olesik.2@osu.edu);

This course will cover the fundamental concepts and practical use of inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for elemental chemical analysis.

The Ohio State University Trace Element Research Laboratory (TERL) will offer a 5 day short course (non-credit or for credit as individual studies course) on "Elemental Analysis Using Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy and Mass Spectroscopy" on dates based on demand.

The course will be geared toward providing an introduction necessary for students to use inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry or to evaluate results from elemental analysis instruments.

ICP-OES and ICP-MS are used for bulk elemental chemical analysis of just about any material or substance (waters, biological materials, inorganic materials of all sorts, environmental samples, geological samples, etc.). Most of the periodic table (with the exceptions of H, O, N, F, Cl and noble gas elements) can be measured using ICP-OES and ICP-MS. Concentrations from major to parts per billion or in many cases parts per trillion in solution can be measured. Quantitative analysis involves calibrating the instrument with a series of appropriate solution standards and then measuring signals from the samples of interest. In addition to quantitative analysis, semiquantitative analysis by ICP-MS allows rapid estimation of concentrations for about 75 elements using only a few elements in a single standard. ICP-MS also allows measurement of isotopic abundances so it is useful for stable isotope tracer experiments, isotope dilution calibration, etc.

Lecture/discussion sessions will be held each morning (M-F) from 9:00 AM to noon. A three hour lab for students to gain hands-on experience using the ICP-OES and ICP-MS instruments will be held each afternoon or evening.

Depending on the number of students who take the short course, we will have two or three laboratory sessions (laboratory sessions will likely be 12:30-3:30 PM or 3:30-6:30 PM if there are two sessions with the third option from 7:00 to 10:00 PM, if necessary) to choose from. This will provide ample opportunity for everyone to get as much hands-on experience with the ICP-optical emission and ICP-mass spectrometry instruments as possible. Students will work in groups of 2 (or a maximum of 3) people on each instrument. 

For OSU students and researchers instrument time for each person can be provided by one of two options: (a) $200 for instrument time or (b) $750 deposit of funds into TERL (that can be used for any TERL services within one year, so there would effectively be no charge for the instrument time in this course). The cost of instrument time (the only cost for the 5-day short course) will be less than 1/10 the cost of typical 4 day short courses offered commercially! In fact, using option (b) it costs nothing more than a commitment to use any TERL facilities in the future at normal, subsidized OSU user rates! If you do not have a source of funds for the instrument time.  Those external to OSU should contact John Olesik for further information.

If you have questions contact John Olesik.  (phone: 292-6954, FAX: 292-7688; E-mail: olesik.2@osu.edu);