The Laboratory employs consolidated techniques for the determination of isotopic ratios of the water molecule, of carbonate rocks, gases and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). The study of the isotopes is based on their distribution in the different phases (solid, liquid, gas) as a tracer element origin and the processes that have acted on it.

The analysis of these molecules allows to highlight the possible interactions of the substances under stydy (essentially water and/or gas) with the environment. This allows us to open a range of application fields ranging from geology to environmental science to the medical field.

Isotopic investigations are applied in hydrogeology, geochemistry, monitoring of geothermal and volcanic fields, monitoring of landfills, studies on metabolism and diagnostic.
A cooperation in the medical field with the Institute of Clinical Physiology of the National Council of Research (IFC) started in 1998 and led in 2013 to the creation of a join-laboratory between IFC and IGG (Environmental, Biological and Isotope Lab - ENBISL).

The Lab cooperates with universities, government agencies, consulting firms and other institutions.


The laboratory is equipped for the isotopic analysis of hydrogen (2H, 3H), carbon (13C), oxygen (18O) in almost any compound in which they occur.

The equipment equipment includes:

  • Two mass-spectrometers IRMS (Europa Scientifìc Geo 2020 and Finnigan MAT 252 dual inlet system) for isotopic analysis of CO2 and H2;
  • Liquid Water Isotope Analyzer (LWIA) of Los Gatos Research (LGR), that provides measurement of δ18O and δ2H in aqueous samples by laser spectroscopy. The instrument uses a technique based on "Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy" (OA-ICOS). This technique offers a performance comparable mass spectrometry and measure the absolute concentration of 2HHO, HH18O and HHO molecules;
  • Vacuum preparation line, which allows to obtain gas samples for the measurement of the isotopic compositions via mass spectrometry. The preparation lines allow the analysis of oxygen-18 and deuterium in the waters, carbon-13 and oxygen-18 in carbonates and carbon-13 dissolved in water;
  • Quantulus ™ liquid scintillation counter (PerkinElmer), for measuring low environmental levels of alpha and beta radiation;
  • Electrolysis bench for tritium enrichment in water samples, using IAEA type cells.


Dr. Brunella  Raco (CNR Researcher - Head Laboratory)

Carlo Sardo (CNR Technician)

Dr. Maurizio Catania (CNR Technician)

Caterina Giorgi (CNR Technician)



+39 050 6212320 (Dr. Brunella Raco)



The methods used in the laboratory are derived from consolidated techniques of which the main references are provided below:

  • Determination of the 18O abundance in water samples. The procedure consists of equilibrating with carbon dioxide gas, after manual sample preparation on vacuum preparation line and subsequent measurement of the isotopic composition to the mass spectrometer (Epstein S. and Mayeda T., 1953. Variation of 18O content of waters from natural sources. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 4, n. 5, 213-224)
  • Simultaneous determination of deuterium and oxygen-18 in water through LWIA-LGR. The Liquid Water Isotope Analyzer (LWIA), based on the "Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy" technique (OA-ICOS), is alternative to the use of mass spectrometry for the analysis of stable isotopes in water. This instrument provides simultaneous D/H and 16O/18O ratio measurements directly on the H2O molecules with no conversion of H2O to H2, and no CO or H2/CO2-water equilibration required. Using a systematic sample analysis and data normalization procedure measurement precision of ±0.8‰ for 2H and ±0.1‰ for 18O are obtainable. (Lis G., Wassenaar L.I. and Hendry M. J., 2008. High-Precision Laser Spectroscopy D/H and 18O/16O/ Measurements of Microliter Natural Water Samples. Anal. Chem., 80, 287-293)
  • Determination of carbon-13 and oxygen-18 in carbonates by reaction with phosphoric acid, after manual under vacuum preparation, and measurement of isotopic composition of CO2 produced by mass spectrometry. (McCrea J.M., 1950. On the Isotopic Chemistry of Carbonates and a Paleotemperature Scale. Journal of Chemical Physics, v. 18, n. 6, 849-857)
  • Isotopic analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon in natural water (DIC). This measurement is performed on carbon dioxide extracted from sample after acidification with phosphoric acid. (Mook W.G., 1970. Stable carbon and oxygen isotopes of natural waters in the Netherlands. Isotope Hydrology, IAEA, Vienna, 163-190)
  • Determination of tritium in water for direct measurement of water samples (containing more than 60 TU), or prior electrolytic enrichment for low natural tritium levels, by the Quantulus ™ liquid scintillation counter. The liquid scintillation counting is based on the conversion of the energy of a particle emitted by a radioactive nucleus into photon energy by means of a scintillating agent. (Thatcher L.L., Janzer V.J. and Edwards R.W., 1977. Methods for determination of radioactive substances in water and fluvial sediments. In: Techniques of Water Resources Investigations. US Geol. Surv., Washington, pp. 79–81)

This kind of isotopic analysis finds application in many fields, such as geothermal energy, volcanology, hydrogeology, hydrology, environmental science and medicine.


The laboratory carried out analysis for third parties, including companies, universities and national and international institutions, such as:

  • Enel Green Power (gruppo ENEL) – Pisa;
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) – Vienna;
  • AQUATER (gruppo ENI) – San Lorenzo in Campo (PS);
  • U.S.G.S. - U.S.A.;
  • Università di Napoli, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra;
  • Università di Pisa, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra;
  • Università di Roma “La Sapienza”, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra;
  • Università di Ancona, Dipartimento di Fisica e Ingegneria dei Materiali e del Territorio;
  • Università di Perugia, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile e Ambientale;
  • Università di Perugia, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra;
  • Università di Bologna, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e Geologico-Ambientali;
  • Università di Torino, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra;
  • Università di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra;
  • Università di Sassari, Istituto di Scienze Geologico-Mineralogico;
  • Università di Modena, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra;
  • Politecnico di Torino, Dipartimento Georisorse e Territorio;
  • Terme di Manzano - Cortona (AR);
  • CEPA s.r.l. – Palermo;
  • Fiorentinambiente – Firenze;
  • Progeo s.r.l. – Pisa;
  • I.G.M.E. – Atene;
  • G.E.M.E.E. – Atene;
  • CESEN S.p.A. – Genova;
  • S.Te.G.A. – Viterbo;
  • Terme di Saturnia s.r.l. – Saturnia (GR);
  • GEO s.r.l. – Bari;
  • COINFRA consorzio infrastrutture – Prato;
  • Cierre s.n.c. – Arezzo;
  • Singea s.r.l. – Ravenna;
  • Geotecno – Firenze;
  • Crippa & Bergher fonti Levissima S.p.A.– Sondrio;
  • Museo Nacional de Ciencis Naturales – Madrid;
  • Ministero delle Attività Produttive – Roma;
  • ELC Electroconsult – Milano;
  • Rocchetta S.p.A. – Gualdo Tadino (PG);
  • PNOC – Manila (Filippine);
  • Istituto Nacional Electrificacion – Guatemala;
  • Ambiente s.c.r.l. – Carrara (MS);
  • C.E.L. – San Salvador (El Salvador);
  • Geotermica Italiana – Pisa;
  • ARPAT – Siena;
  • Consorzio Acquedotti Perugia S.p.A. – Perugia;
  • Solvay Chimica Italia – Rosignano Solvay (LI);
  • Analisi Service Pontedera (PI);
  • Consorzio Pisa Ricerche – Pisa;
  • Sodez SA – Corsica, Francia;
  • AFE S.p.A. – Alessandria;
  • San Pellegrino – San Pellegrino Terme (BG);
  • Controlli Sicurezza Ambientale sas - Prato;
  • R.A.I.T. s.r.l. – Roccapiemonte, Salerno;
  • Sardinia Gold Mining S.p.A. – Cagliari;
  • Amministrazione Provinciale – Sassari;
  • San Martino Codrongianos - Sassari;
  • Dip. Te. Ris. - Università di Genova;
  • Fonte Azzurrina S.p.A. – Lucca;
  • Italfilo – Grosseto;
  • Hydrodata S.p.A. – Torino;
  • Panna S.p.A. - Scarperia (FI);
  • Azienda Municipalizzata Nettezza Urbana S.p.A. – Parma;
  • Istituto De Investigationes Electricas, Dept. De Geotermia – Messico;
  • Comunità Montana dell’Elba e Capraia – Livorno;
  • SIAMI s.r.l. – Gubbio (PG);
  • Messer Geogas s.r.l. – Rapolano Terme (SI);
  • Centro Studi Geologici, Geologia Tecnica – S. Miniato B. Pisa;
  • Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME) – Atene Grecia;
  • Aeronautica Militare – Genova;
  • HSYI s.r.l. – Torino; ASA – Livorno;
  • Caffaro Energia s.r.l. – Sesto San Giovanni (MI);
  • Getas-Petrogeo s.r.l. – Pisa;
  • TEA sistemi - Pisa.


Main research areas include:

  • Geochemistry and hydrogeology (isotopic characterization of rainwater and groundwater, deep groundwater flow systems, groundwater-surface water interactions, groundwater dating);
  • Geothermal and volcanology (geothermometric applications, fumarole studies);
  • Paleoclimate and paleohydrology (isotopic composition of oxygen and carbon on foraminifera to obtain new information about the climatic history and paleocirculation in the Adriatic region during the Late Quaternary);
  • Biology (studies on human metabolism, hepatic activity and diagnostic tests);
  • Environmental monitoring (assessment of shallow aquifers contamination, studies on formation and dispersion of the leachate and landfill biogas).


  • Cortopassi P., D’Amato Avanzi G., Guidotti M., Marconi C., Milano P.F., Mussi M., Puccinelli A. (2006) Approccio multidisciplinare per la valutazione della pericolosità di frana: indagini geologico-tecniche, idrogeologiche, geochimiche e isotopiche per la determinazione degli apporti idrici sotterranei nella frana di Cassana in Val di Magra (Massa-Carrara, Italia). Giornale di Geologia Applicata, Vol. 3, pp. 196- 204.
  • Cortecci G., Boschetti T., Mussi M., Lameli C.H., Mucchino C., Barbieri M. (2005) New chemical and original isotopic data on waters from El Tatio geothermal field, northern Chile. Geochemical Journal, Vol. 39, pp. 547- 571.
  • Mussi M. (2004) Gli isotopi ambientali nelle acque di sorgenti e pozzi e nelle emergenze sulfuree sottomarine di Capo Palinuro, Salerno. Geologia Tecnica & Ambientale, Vol. 3, pp. 35 – 55.
  • Calvi E., Caprai A., Leone G., Mussi M. (1999) Isotopic and chemical compositions of some thermal groundwaters and associated gases in the Serchio river valley, Northern Tuscany, Italy. Atti Soc. tosc. Sci. nat., Mem., Serie A, vol. 106 (1999), pagg. 45-53.
  • Mussi M., Leone G., Nardi I. (1998) Isotopic geochemistry of natural water from the Alpi Apuane-Garfagnana area, Northern Tuscany, Italy. Miner. Petrogr. Acta, vol. XLI, pp. 163-178.
  • Gianelli G., Ruggieri G., Mussi M. (1997) Isotopic and fluid inclusion study of hydrothermal and metamorphic carbonates in the Larderello geothermal field and surrounding areas, Italy. Geothermics vol. 26, n. 3, pp. 393-417.
  • Grassi S., Kolios N., Mussi M., Saradeas A. (1996) Groundwater circulation in the Nea Kassani low-temperature geothermal field (NE Greece). Geothermics vol. 25, n. 2, pp. 231-247.
  • Tenu A., Davidescu F., Squarci P., Mussi M. (1995) A low enthalpy geothermal system in the moesian platform. Proceedings of the World Geothermal Congress, Firenze 18-31 maggio 1995, vol. 2, pp. 1325-1329.
  • Grassi S., Squarci P., D’Amore F., Mussi M. (1995) Circulation of thermal waters on Pantelleria Island (Sicily Channel, Italy). Proceedings of the World Geothermal Congress, Firenze 18-31 maggio 1995, vol. 2, pp. 703-706.
  • Squarci P., Gianelli G., Grassi S., Mussi M., D’Amore F. (1994) Preliminary results of geothermal prospecting on the Island of Pantelleria. Acta Vulcanologica, vol. 5, pp. 117-123.
  • D’Amore F., Fancelli R., Mussi M., Caprai A. (1988) Gas modelling in geothermal system using carbon monoxide measurements. Rendiconti SIMP “In memory of Marcello Carapezza 1925-1987” vol. 43, n. 4, pp. 1013-1020.
  • Raco B., Mussi M., Doveri M., Lelli M., Calvi E., Catania M., Cervelli M., Ferrari E., Giorgi C., Trifirò S. (2007) Studio idrogeochimico sulla rete di monitoraggio della discarica RSU di Legoli (Comune di Peccioli, PI) e sui corpi idrici circostanti. Rapporto Finale CNR-IGG, nell’ambito della Convenzione di Ricerca tra CNR-IGG e Belvedere S.p.A. del 11/10/2006 protocollo CNR-IGG 0002430, 25 pp.
  • Mussi M., Doveri M., Calvi E., Catania M., Ferrari E., Giorgi C., Giorgi R. Trifirò S. (2006) Discarica di Casa Sartori (Comune di Montespertoli – FI): Indagine isotopica sui percolati e le acque di tre piezometri (prelievo del 26 novembre 2006 ad integrazione della prima indagine di cui alla relazione del 30/10/2006). Rapporto Scientifico Riservato CNR-IGG, commissionato da Publiambiente S.p.A., 13 pp.
  • Mussi M. (1995) Contenuti isotopici delle acque provenienti dalla concessione Rocchetta S.p.A., Comune di Gualdo Tadino (PG) e campionate il 22 febbraio 1995. Rapporto Scientifico Riservato CNR-IIRG, commissionato da Rocchetta S.p.A., 14 pp.
  • Mussi M. (1993) Contenuti isotopici delle acque provenienti dalla concessione Panna S.p.A., Comune di Scarperia (FI). Rapporto Scientifico Riservato CNR-IIRG, commissionato da Panna S.p.A., 27 pp.
  • Mussi M. (1992) Interpretazione isotopica dei risultati dell'analisi del contenuto in Deuterio, Ossigeno-18 e Tritio in cinque campioni di acqua provenienti da alcune sorgenti delle fonti Levissima S.p.A. (Cepina Valdisotto). Rapporto Scientifico Riservato CNR-IIRG, commissionato da Crippa & Bergher Fonti Levissima S.p.A., 14 pp.
  • Mussi M. (1989) Interpretazione isotopica dei risultati dell'analisi del contenuto in Deuterio, Ossigeno 18 e Tritio dei due campioni di acque provenienti dalle terme di Manzano (Comune di Cortona). Rapporto Scientifico Riservato CNR-IIRG, commissionato dalla società GEOTECNO di Firenze, 3 pp.
  • D'Amore F., Fancelli R., Mussi M., Saracco L., Truesdell A.H., Caprai A., Calvi E., Del Chicca G., Giorgi R. (1988) Development of a methodology for measuring carbon monoxide and its geothermometric applications. Final Report 1986-88, contratto CEE-CNR (IIRG) n° EN3G-0022-I, 34 pp.