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The NanoSIMS at the IOW is employed by projects covering different scientific subjects:


An often-used application is the single cell analysis of microorganisms. In this field isotope labelling experiments are of special interest. The uptake of isotopic labelled nutrients can be quantified on the single cell level by NanoSIMS analyses. Thus, e.g., C-, N- und S-nutrient cycling can be connected to the organisms performing this processes in lab cultures and natural habitats. From single cell results, rates for larger areas like the redoxcline or the whole Baltic Sea can be extrapolated and the results can also be implemented in ecosystem modelling.


Implants are widely used in the medical sector. The surface composition of such implants is an important characteristic affecting the acceptance of the implant by the body. NanoSIMS analyses are employed to characterize the homogeneity of the material and drug coatings prior and after usage.

Analysis of bigger organisms

Thin sections of bigger organisms or their organelles can be analysed with the NanoSIMS. Some organisms utilise material differently depending on environmental conditions like e.g. temperature. A continuous deposition of such materials in the organisms allows correlation with growing conditions. With the NanoSIMS analyses can be performed for e.g., a single cell wall.

Particle analysis

Air and water can contain small particles which can play a crucial role for e.g., cloud formation or microbial communities. Such particles may provide information about the particle origin or turnover rates in the system. The NanoSIMS has the capability to analyse the elemental composition of individual particles and prevents the loss of information, if bulk analyses are performed.

Soil science

Nutrient cycling, biomass decomposition or soil decontamination are processes which are largely run by microorganisms and fungi. The role of single organisms and which organelles utilise or store nutrient or pollutants can be addressed by NanoSIMS analyses.