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ICOS Central Analytical Laboratories
ICOS Germany
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Global Atmosphere Watch

Providing air analyses and reference standards

The Flask and Calibration Laboratory (FCL) is one of the central analytical laboratories of the European research infrastructure ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System). ICOS provides harmonised high precision data for advanced research on carbon cycle and greenhouse gas budgets and perturbations. Within the ICOS network of monitoring stations the FCL is dedicated to assuring calibrated field measurements, performing highly accurate measurements of various tracers in grab samples and supporting the quality control of field measurements. The Flask and Calibration Laboratory is also engaged in further method development and improvement.

ICOS-Handbook 2019


  • analysis of the following parameters in air samples from the ICOS stations:
    • trace gas concentrations (CO2, CH4, N2O, H2, CO, SF6)
    • O2/N2 ratios
    • Stable isotopes of CO2 (δ13C and δ18O)
  • production of real air calibration gases for ICOS stations
  • conditioning of air sample containers (flasks) and high pressure cylinders to achieve long-term stability of the relevant tracers in samples and reference gases
  • development of data processing and evaluation tools and long term data archiving
  • implementation of internal and external quality assurance procedures and round robin intercomparisons

Major equipment

  • Isotope ratio mass spectrometer (Thermo Scientific MAT 253) and CO2 extraction line for stable isotope analysis of atmospheric carbon dioxide
  • Isotope ratio mass spectrometer (Thermo Scientific DELTA V) for O2/N2 analysis of air samples
  • Cavity ringdown spectrometer (Picarro G2301) for CO2 and CH4 measurements
  • FTIR Spectrometer (Ecotech Spectronus FTIR) for CO2, N2O, CO, and CH4 analyses
  • Gaschromatograph (Agilent 7890A) for CO2, CH4, N2O, H2, CO, SF6 concentration analyses in flask samples (detector types: FID, ECD, PDD, RGD)
  • Oil free compressor (Rix) combined with a Zero Air Generator and a depletion/ spiking system for selective adjustment of tracers to produce real air calibration gases

Stable isotope mass spectrometer for CO2 analysis with full equipped sample carrousel and CO2 separation below. (photo: ICOS-FCL) Spiking system for adjustment of desired tracer concentrations for gas standard preparation. (photo: ICOS-FCL) Gaschromatic system with thermalized valves and columns. (photo: ICOS-FCL) Production of real air gas standards. (photo: ICOS-FCL) Flask samples (right) and gas standard cylinders (left background) for sequenced analyses. (photo: ICOS-FCL)
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