It is an indisputable fact that geochronology plays a vital role in geosciences. A world-renowned scholar once said: “There is no branch of science in geosciences that can produce valuable results independent of geosciences, which otherwise can do so itself as an independent branch.” As zircon has unique physical and chemical property and wide existence in various rocks, microanalytical technique of zircon is the most widely-used, reliable and accurate in geochronology. However, the application and relevant research of experimental results were constrained because traditional dating methods required dissolving samples in chemical reagent, which made it hard for researchers to obtain all information of the structurally-complex zircon. Along with the scientific development since 1980s, Professor William Compston from Australian National University(ANU) and his team manufactured SHRIMP II(strongly sensitive with high resolution) specially for the study of isotope geology. With an irreplaceable advantage in testing ages of zircon, SHRIMP II ushered in a new age of micro-area and in situ analysis of zircon chronology, producing far-reaching influence worldwide.
Scientific papers based on SHRIMP dating results, which is geologically direct, proliferated since ANU’s first SHRIMP was born. It is to our knowledge in the geology circle that a paper on the subject of “evolution” can hardly be published on international journals without geochronology data provided by SHRIMP. Therefore, as the academic leader of China’s isotope geology, researcher Liu Dunyi introduced the first SHRIMP II from Australia to China in 2001 and set up Beijing SHRIMP Center, an important part of the National Platform of Science Instrument Center, co-sponsored by Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Land and Resources and China Academy of Sciences. The center has provided a strong technology support for China’s research on geochronology and geoscience to catch up with foreign countries.
Following the principle of emphasizing key points, strengthening integration, optimizing allocation and scientific utilization, Beijing SHRIMP Center is the service lab featuring on open research established to meet the demand of the development of geoscience China. Coordinated by the Ministry of Science, co-funded by the Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Land and Resources and China Academy of Science, featured by two giant scientific instruments SHRIMP II and SHRIMP IIe-MC, Beijing SHRIMP Center is the center for applied research, talent training and analytical test. Under the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, the center engages in research on geochronology, cosmochronology, especially the microanalytical techniques of uranium and thorium, geological time scale, especially the formation of solar system and globe and the structural evolution of main orogenic belt system, ,metallogenic epoch of ore deposits andmicroanalyticaltechniques of rare earth. With two SHRIMPⅡ, we are making great efforts to find new dating methods , resolve problems on timing analysis.
In accordance with the eleventh five-year plan, Beijing SHRIMP Center, based on the reality of an inadequate number and unequal accessibility of large scientific instruments, developed and applied the technology of remotely sharing large instruments, with the most outstanding being“SHRIMP remote sharing” to meet the increasingly strict requirement of researchers. The center also established a virtual lab by introducing a batch of large instruments for micro-beam analysis(ion beam, electron beam and laser beam) in cooperation with 22 universities and institutions including Beijing University, Nanjing University, Jilin University, China University of Geosciences(Wuhan), Northwest University, National Institute of Metrology, China National Institute of Standardization, Institute of Mineral Resources of Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Tianjin Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources, Yichang Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Materia Medica Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Institute of Earth Sciences of Academia Sinica, University of São Paulo, Curtin University of Technology, University of Milano-Bicocca, and Hong Kong University. This has laid a solid technology and operation basis for the establishment of a national virtual center of large instruments featured by the method of remote sharing, improving the efficiency and quality of major scientific equipment and accelerating the development of relevant research and platform building. So far, the virtual lab has provided remote experiment support for such subjects as earth science, material science, life science, medicine, nanotechnology through connecting micro-beam instrument sporadically distributed all around the country.
The geology circle has acknowledged that the introduction of SHRIMP II and establishment of Beijing SHRIMP Center are two great contributions to the development of China’s geosciences. The center has become a model of the National Science&Technology Infrastructure Center to provide efficient resources for the public. Foreign peer institutions also acclaimed the center as a world famous geochronology platform and one of the most outstanding geochronology lab in the world.