Stable isotopes geochemistry is a discipline characterized by a wide range of research topics and applications to almost all studies, concerning geology, biology, archaeology, agronomy, ecology, medicine and food authenticity and traceability. Concerning the earth sciences, the areas of application include high and low temperature studies, embracing research topics on volcanology, geothermal and hydrothermal field, global change, climatology and paleoclimatology up to the planetary geology.

Stable isotopes geochemistry studies the relative abundances of the elements and their isotopes, especially hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur. All isotopes of a given element have the same number of protons but differ in neutron number and, thus, in atomic mass. The light isotope of an element is by far the most abundant. The ratio and the relative abundance of the heavy to the light isotopes is not constant: there are many natural processes in which the heavier isotope, as it reacts slightly slower, is enriched (or depleted) in a phase (solid, liquid or gaseous) relative to another one. This cause the products of reactions to have different isotope ratios than the source materials (i.e. Isotope fractionation).

Stable isotope geochemistry investigates the mechanisms of isotope fractionation and applies the knowledge about the isotope fractionation factor of an element in a given substance in order to understand the mechanisms which generated this substance.
This research topic has become a fundamental tool to investigate and study the origin of terrestrial fluids (magmatic, hydrothermal, geothermal ones), which precipitate minerals, interact with the geo-bio sphere, feed aquifers, circulate in the Earth’s surface and even more deeply. It is also important to trace the history of an igneous rock or the origin of a meteorite, to identify the role of biota in the formation or alteration of rocks as well as to reconstruct climatic variation during the past (both at the geological scale and during the last 2ky)
The IGG-Stable Isotopes Laboratory was settled in 2005 and, over the years, has been upgraded with new instrumentations and analytical methods, which allow a continuously increasing number of applications in a wider range of research fields. In 2016 the laboratory has been renewed, improved and moved to a larger and modernized location.

The stable isotopes geochemistry laboratory, together with others IGG-Laboratories and laboratories of other Research Institutions, belongs to the ESFRI EPOS network (European Plate Observing System,, which mission to integrate the diverse and advanced European Research Infrastructures for solid Earth science.


The laboratory’s facilities allow the measurement of both the content of total hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, organic and inorganic carbon (TN, H, TOC, TIC) in solid, liquid and gaseous samples and their isotopic composition. 

The laboratory is currently involved in developing and implementing of new analytical methods to face research challenges that require improved analytical accuracy and precision.

Four mass-spectrometers IRMS (Thermo Delta XP, Thermo Delta Adv, Finningan MAT Delta Plus, Finningan ThermoQuest Delta Plus) interface with: 

  • Laser - fluorination extraction line for the determination of 18O/16O ratios in silicates
  • Gasbench II (Finningan) for the automated 18O/16O and 13C/12C ratios of carbonates and 13C/12C of TDIC
  • Gas Chromatograph Trace GC Ultra (Thermo Scientific) for the separation of carbon compounds (CO2, hydrocarbons, biomarkers, etc) and for δ13C and, eventually, δ2H determination
  • TC/EA (Finningan) for the oxygen and deuterium isotope analysis of solids
  • Elemental Analyser Flash EA1112HT (Thermo Scientific) for the C, H, N, S, O elemental and isotope analysis of solids, liquids and gases (including head-space)
  • Elemental Analyser (Carlo Erba) for the C, H, N elemental and isotope analysis of liquids (including cooking oil, wine, fuel oil, gasoline) and solids
  • Automatic equilibration system for 18O/16O determination in water samples
  • Off-line traditional vacuum preparation line for the extraction and clean up of CO2 for the 18O/16O and 13C/12C ratios determination from non-pure carbonates, rocks with variable (and low) carbonate content and carbonate mixtures (sequential extraction) 

The laboratory is also equipped with an instrument (IRIS-Delta Ray from ThermoFischer Scientific) for the determination of CO2 concentration and carbon and oxygen isotopic composition by laser technology. The instrument has the enormous advantage that it can be used directly in-situ and for continuous analysis. 

The figure shows different instrumental configurations for several analytical and research needs.


Dr. Chiara Boschi – Head of Lab

Dr. Ilaria Baneschi - Head of Lab

Dr. Maurizio Catania 

Dr. Eleonora Regattieri

Dr. Andrea Rielli

Dr. Massimo Guidi

Dr. Luca Forti 

The laboratory usually hosts colleagues, associates and trainees from Italian and foreign universities and research centers.



+39 050 621 2315 (Dr. Chiara Boschi)

+39 050 6212343 (Dr. Ilaria Baneschi)




The analytical techniques of the Stable Isotope Lab are multiple and depending on the matrix and the isotope to be analyzed. In particular, the sample must be adequately treated in order to obtain a gaseous aliquot to be introduced into the IRMS spectrometer in a continuous flow or manual (dual inlet). 

Solid samples can be ablated (by laser extraction), combusted (by flash oxidation), pyrolyzed (by high temperature thermal decomposition), dissolved in acid or treated by organic solvents. Gaseous samples if pure (only N2, CO2, H2, CO) are injected as is, or separated cryogenically or by gas chromatographic techniques.

Examples of matrices, isotopic analyses, and applied research are listed below: 

  • Matrix: soils/sediments, vegetation, animal tissues, atmospheric and dissolved water particulates
    • Isotopic ratio: 13C/12C, 15N/14N
    • Applications: tracing and sources partitioning in environmental studies; studies of spatial and temporal variation in present and past environments; carbon dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems; trophic chain studies; paleo-diet studies; plant physiology; studies of biochemical processes.
  • Matrix: solid and dissolved carbonates in water (DIC).
    • Isotopic ratio: 13C/12C, 18O/16O
    • Applications: hydrothermal, metamorphic and geothermal studies of inorganic carbonates in active and fossil systems; paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental studies; hydrogeological studies and surface and groundwater dynamics (C in DIC); applications to cultural heritage. 
  • Matrix: silicate minerals and oxides (anhydrous and hydrates).
    • Isotopic ratio: 2H/1H, 18O/16O
    • Applications: petrological, geothermal, volcanological studies for mineral genesis and alteration dynamics. 
  • Matrix: dry and dissolved gases in water
    • Isotopic ratio: 13C/12C
    • Applications: volcanological and geothermal studies on CO2 and CH4; studies of biogas production dynamics; tracking of organic molecules; tracking of gas emissions and their reaction.

The lab develops new protocols, analytical techniques, and ad hoc applications in response to new research issues and challenges. 

The table summarizes the isotope ratios analyzed by matrix type, precision, and minimum amounts required. Minimum analyzable aliquots must contain at least 5-20 micromoles of N and/or 10-200 micromoles of C for a single analysis. The material available for analysis must be 5 times the minimum analyzable amount, homogenized and finely ground (<150 mm). For silicate, oxide, and mineral hydrate d18O  and d 2H analyses separate minerals are required.


  • GEMEX 2016-2019 (Horizon 2020) “Cooperation in Geothermal energy research Europe-Mexico for development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems and Superhot Geothermal Systems".
  • Ecopotential Project 2015-2019 (HORIZON 2020) “Improving future Ecosystem Benefits through earth observations”.
  • IODP EXPEDITION 357 “Atlantis Massif Serpentinization and Life”.
  • INGV-UniPi Speleothems Project (Federazione Speleologica Toscana)
  • DESCRAMBLE 2015-2018 Project (Horizon 2020) “Developing the next generation technologies of renewable electricity and heating/cooling”
  • 2014-2015 Research Project for the reconstruction of the paleoenviroment and paleoclimate within the Trasimeno lake and Accesa lake basin, respectively, during the last 10 ky. Project Progetto with the Geology department of Pisa University and the Köln University
  • IMAGE Project 2013-2017: Integrated Methods for Advanced Geothermal Exploration; European project co-funded by the European Commission within the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7).
  • The Ritmare Flagship Project, 2012-2016: Planning of the Deep Marine Environment and the Open Sea, supported by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research.
  • RESPIRA Project 2009-2013: REservoir Serpentinitici toscani: da Potenziale Inquinante a Risorsa Ambientale (Tuscan serpentinites reservoir: from potential pollutant to environmental resource), supported by Tuscan Region (Italy) and EU.
  • CSNA‐PNRA Project 2012-2014: Antarctic meteorites, supported by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research.
  • CSNA‐PNRA Project: 2010-2012: Transitions between glacial and interglacial periods inferred by the multidisciplinary investigation of glaciomarine sediments in Ross Sea (Antarctica), supported by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research.
  • PRIN 2010-2014. Lo studio delle ceneri vulcaniche distali (tefra) in sistemi lacustri all’interno del progetto ICDP (SCOPSCO): studio dell’impatto ambientale e contributi alla cronologia e alla valutazione della pericolosità vulcaniche in aree distali. Settore Geo/08 (Geochimica e Vulcanologia). Responsabile Scientifico: Dr. Roberto Sulpizio (Università di .
  • PRIN 2010-2013. Le formazioni costiere della Patagonia come archivi naturali delle variazioni del livello marino e del clima durante il Quaternario nell’emisfero australe: un contributo per la costruzione di scenari climatici futuri. Settore Geo/08 (Geochimica e Vulcanologia). Responsabile Scientifico: Dr. Giovanni Zanchetta (Università di Pisa).
  • IGG-CNR-URBAT 2009-2011. Attività di studio, ricerca, campionamento ed analisi chimico fisiche connesse al progetto per una metodologia unitaria di smaltimento dei residui terrosi provenienti dalla ricamatura dei corsi d'acqua (Responsabile modulo: Dr. Massimo Guidi)


  • Regattieri E., Giaccio B., Nomade S., Francke A., Vogel H., Drysdale R. N., Perchiazzi N., Wagner B., Gemelli M., Mazzini I., Boschi C., Galli P., Peronace E., (2017). A Last Interglacial record of environmental changes from the Sulmona Basin (central Italy). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 472: 51–66, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2017.02.013.
  • Zanchetta G., Bini M, Giaccio G., Manganelli G., Benocci A., Regattieri E., Colonese A.C., Boschi C., Biagioni C., (2017). Middle Pleistocene (MIS 14) environmental conditions in the central Mediterranean derived from terrestrial molluscs and carbonate stable isotopes from Sulmona Basin (Italy). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 485, 236–246, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2017.06.016.
  • Attanasio D., Boschi C., Bracci S., Cantisani E., Paolucci F., (2016). The Greek and Asiatic marbles of the Florentine Niobids. Journal of Archaeological Science 66, 103-111, doi: 10.1016/j.jas.2015.12.008.
  • Brogi A., Alçiçek M.C., Yalciner C.C., Capezzuoli E., Liotta D., Meccheri M., Rimondi V., Ruggieri G., Gandin A., Boschi C., Büyüksarac A., Alçiçek H. Bülbül A., Baykara M.O., Shen C.C., (2016). Hydrothermal fluids circulation and travertine deposition in an active tectonic setting: Insights from the Kamara geothermal area (western Anatolia, Turkey). Tectonophysics 680, 211-232.
  • Smeraglia L., Berra F., Billi A., Boschi C., Carminati E., and Doglioni C. (2016). Origin and role of fluids involved in the seismic cycle of extensional faults in carbonate rocks. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 450, 292–305, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.06.042.
  • Regattieri, E., Zanchetta, G., Drysdale, R.N., Isola, I., Woodhead, J.D., Hellstrom, J.C., Giaccio, B., Greig, A., Baneschi, I., Dotsika, E., (2016). Environmental variability between the penultimate deglaciation and the mid Eemian: Insights from Tana che Urla (central Italy) speleothem trace element record. Quaternary Science Reviews, 152,  80-92. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2016.<wbr />09.027.
  • Zanchetta G., Regattieri E., Isola I., Drysdale R. N., Drysdale R. N., Bini M., Baneschi I., Hellstrom J. C. (2016). The so-called "4.2 event" in the central mediterranean and its climatic teleconnections. Alpine and Mediterranean Quaternary, 29: 5-17.
  • Giaccio B., Regattieri E., Zanchetta G., Wagner B., Galli P., Mannella G., Niespolo E., Peronace E., Renne P.R., Nomade S., Cavinato G.P., Messina P., Sposato A., Boschi C., Florindo F., Marra F., Sadori L. (2015). A key continental archive for the last 2 Ma of climatic history of the central Mediterranean region: A pilot drilling in the Fucino Basin, central Italy. Sci. Dril., 20, 13–19, 2015, doi:10.5194/sd-20-13-2015.
  • Baneschi I., Isola I., Regattieri E., Guidi M., Zanchetta G. (2015). Composizione isotopica delle acque di pioggia e di stillicidio dell’Antro del Corchia: Implicazioni Idrologiche e Paleoclimatiche. Acta Apuana, IX-X: 59-69.
  • Gil G., Barnes J. D., Boschi C., Gunia P., Raczyński P., Szakmány G., Bendő Z., Péterdi B., (2015). Nephrite from Złoty Stok (Sudetes, SW Poland): Petrological, geochemical, and isotopic evidence for a dolomite-related origin. Can. Min., 53, 533-556.
  • Regattieri E., Giaccio B., Galli P., Nomade S., Peronace E., Messina P., Sposato A., Boschi C., Gemelli M., (2015). A multi-proxy record of MIS 11-12 deglaciation and glacial MIS 12 instability from the Sulmona basin (central Italy).
  • Rimondi V., Costagliola P., Ruggieri G., Benvenuti M., Boschi C., Brogi A., Capezzuoli E., Morelli G., Gasparon M., Liotta D., (2015). Fluid inclusions, mineralogy, carbon and oxygen isotopes of tectonically controlled banded calcite veins (banded travertine): insights from the fossil hydrothermal system of Castelnuovo dell’Abate (Tuscany, Italy). In press to International Journal of Earth Sciences.
  • Attanasio D., C. Boschi, S. Bracci, E. Cantisani, F. Paolucci, (2014). Provenance Studies of the Marble of Ancient Sculptures in the Tribune of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Archaeometry, doi: 10.1111/arcm.12121.
  • Colonese A.C., Zanchetta G., Fallick A.E., Manganelli G., Lo Cascio P., Hausmann N., Baneschi I., Regattieri E. (2014). Oxygen and carbon isotopic composition of modern terrestrial gastropod shells from Lipari Island, Aeolian Archipelago (Sicily). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 394: 119-127.
  • Lorenzini S., Baroni C., Baneschi I., Salvatore M.C., Fallick A.E., Hall B.L. (2014). Adélie penguin dietary remains reveal Holocene environmental changes in the western Ross Sea (Antarctica). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 395: 21–28.
  • Masi A., Sadori L., Restelli Balossi F., Baneschi I., Zanchetta G. (2014). Stable carbon isotope analysis as a crop management indicator at Arslantepe (Malatya, Turkey) during the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 23: 751–760.
  • Mazzarini F., G. Ruggeri, I. Isola, C. Boschi, A. Dini, G. Musumeci, S. Rocchi, (2014). Fluid transfer and vein thickness distribution in high and low temperature hydrothermal systems at shallow crustal level in southern Tuscany (Italy). Annals of Geophysics, 57, 3, 2014, S0326; doi:10.4401/ag-6263.
  • Mittempergher, S., Dallai, L., Pennacchioni, G., Renard, F., Di Toro, G. (2014). Origin of hydrous fluids at seismogenic depth: Constraints from natural and experimental fault rocks. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 385, 97-109, DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2013.10.027.
  • Negri, A., Amorosi, A., Antonioli, F., Bertini, A., Florindo, F., Lurcock, P.C., Marabini, S., Mastronuzzi, G., Regattieri, E., Rossi, V., Scarponi, D., Taviani, M., Zanchetta, G., Vai, G.B. (2014). A potential global boundary stratotype section and point (GSSP) for the Tarentian Stage, Upper Pleistocene, from the Taranto area (Italy): Results and future perspectives. Quaternary International, in press
  • Tribuzio, R., Renna, M.R., Dallai, L., Zanetti, A., (2014). The magmatic-hydrothermal transition in the lower oceanic crust: Clues from the Ligurian ophiolites, Italy. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 130, 188-211, DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2014.01.010.
  • D'Antonio, M., Tonarini, S., Arienzo, I., Civetta, L., Dallai, L., Moretti, R., Orsi, G., Andria, M., Trecalli, A., (2013). Mantle and crustal processes in the magmatism of the Campania region: inferences from mineralogy, geochemistry, and Sr-Nd-O isotopes of young hybrid volcanics of the Ischia island (South Italy). Contributions to Mineralogy and petrology, 165, 6, 1173-1194, DOI: 10.1007/s00410-013-0853-x.
  • Baneschi I., Dallai L.; Giazzi G.; Guidi M.; Krotz L. (2013). A method for the definition of the carbon oxidation number in the gases dissolved in waters and the redox variations using an elemental analyser (FlashEA 1112). Preliminary data from a stratified lake. J. Geochemical exploration., 124: 14-21.
  • Colonese A.C., Zanchetta G., Perles C., Drysdale R.N., Manganelli G., Baneschi I., Dotsika E., Valladas H. (2013). Deciphering late Quaternary land snail shell δ18O and δ13C from Franchthi Cave (Argolid, Greece). Quaternary Research, 80: 66-75.
  • Gozzi, F., Gaeta, M., Freda, C., Mollo, S., Di Rocco, T., Marra, F., Dallai, L., Pack, A., (2013). Primary magmatic calcite reveals origin from crustal carbonate, Lithos, 190, 191-203, doi: 10.1016/j.lithos.2013.12.008.
  • Masi A., Sadori L., Zanchetta G., Baneschi I., Giardini M., (2013). Climatic interpretation of carbon isotope content of mid-Holocene archaeological charcoals from eastern Anatolia. Quaternary International, 303: 64-72.
  • Masi A., Sadori L., Baneschi I., Siani A.M., Zanchetta G. (2013). Stable isotope analysis of archaeological oak charcoal from eastern Anatolia as a marker of mid-Holocene climate change. Plant Biology, 15: 83-92.
  • Di Rocco, T., Freda, C., Gaeta, M., Mollo, S., Dallai, L., (2012). Magma Chambers Emplaced in Carbonate Substrate: Petrogenesis of Skarn and Cumulate Rocks and Implications for CO2 Degassing in Volcanic Areas. Journal of Petrology, 53, 11, 2307-2332, DOI: 10.1093/petrology/egs051.
  • Meneghini F., Botti F., Aldega L., Boschi C., Corrado S., Marroni M., Pandolfi L., (2012). Hot fluid pumping along shallow level collisional thrusts: the Monte Rentella Shear Zone, Umbria Apennine, Italy. Journal of Structural Geology 37, 36-52.
  • Zanchetta G., Van Welden A., Baneschi I., Drysdale R., Sadori L., Roberts N., Giardini M., Beck C., Pascucci V. (2012). Multiproxy record for the last 4500 years from Lake Shkodra (Albania/Montenegro). J. Quaternary Science, 27: 780-789.
  • Dallai, L., Burgess, R., (2011). A record of Antarctic surface temperature between 25 and 50 m.y. ago. Geology, 39, 5, 423-426.
  • Dallai L., Cioni R., Boschi C., D’Oriano C., (2011). Oxygen isotope composition of mafic magmas at Vesuvius, EPSL. 310, 84–95.
  • Lorenzini S., Baneschi I., Fallick A.E., Salvatore M.C., Zanchetta G., Dallai L., Baroni C. (2011). Insights into the Holocene environmental setting of Terra Nova Bay region (Ross Sea, Antarctica) from oxygen isotope geochemistry of Adélie penguin eggshells. The Holocene, 22(I): 63-69.
  • Perinelli, C., Armienti, P., Dallai, L., (2011) Thermal Evolution of the Lithosphere in a Rift Environment as Inferred from the Geochemistry of Mantle Cumulates, Northern Victoria Land, Antarctica. Journal of Petrology, 52, 4, 665-690.
  • Leng M.J., Baneschi I., Zanchetta G., Jex C.N., Wagner B., Vogel H. (2010). Late Quaternary palaeoenvironmental reconstruction from Lakes Ohrid and Prespa (Macedonia/Albania border) using stable isotopes. Biogeosciences, 7: 3109-3122.
  • Lorenzini S., Baroni C., Fallick A.E., Baneschi I., Salvatore M.C., Zanchetta G., Dallai L. (2010). Carbon and Nitrogen isotopic ratio of Adélie penguin remains document a late-Holocene paleodietary shift in Northern Victoria Land (Ross Sea, Antarctica). Oecologia, 164: 911-919. DOI 10.1007/s00442-010-1790-2.
  • Mazzarini F., Isola I., Ruggieri G., Boschi C., (2010). Fluid circulation in the upper brittle crust: thickness distribution, hydraulic transmissivity fluid inclusion and isotopic data of veins hosted in the Oligocene sandstones of the Macigno Formation in southern Tuscany, Italy, Tectonophysics, 493, 118–138.
  • Meneghini F., Botti F., Aldega L., Boschi C., Corrado S., Marroni M., Pandolfi L., (2010). Hot fluid pumping along shallow level collisional thrusts: the Monte Rentella Shear Zone, Umbria Apennine, Italy. Rendiconti della Società Geologica Italiana, Volume 11, Fascicolo 1, pp 337-338.
  • Vannucchi P., Remitti F., Bettelli G., Boschi C., Dallai L., (2010). Fluid history related to the early Eocene-middle Miocene convergent system of the Northern Apennines (Italy): constraint from structural and isotopic studies. J. Geophys. Res. 115, B05405,, doi:10.1029/2009JB006590.
  • Vannucchi P., Remitti F., Boschi C., Bettelli G., Dallai L., (2010). Deformation and fluid circulation in an erosive subduction channel: constraints from structural and isotopic studies of the ancient analogue of the Northern Apennines of Italy, Rendiconti della Società Geologica Italiana, Volume 11, Fascicolo 1, pp 360-361.
  • Xia, QK., Hao, YT; Li, P., Deloule, E., Coltorti, M., Dallai, L., Yang, XZ., Feng, M., (2010). Low water content of the Cenozoic lithospheric mantle beneath the eastern part of the North China Craton. Journal of Geophysical Research, 115, B07207, DOI: 10.1029/2009JB006694.