μstandards is comprised of five people with background in geochemistry, geosciences, materials science, and business administration, who ideally complement each other with their skill-sets. Three of them - Simon Nordstad, Christina Wittke and Leewe Schönberg - make up the founding team and were funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy with an EXIST start-up scholarship.

The pellets were born from the idea of harnessing the broad spectrum of well-known powdered certified reference materials for in situ analysis with laser ablation ICP mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). However, the grain size of the “analytically” original powders is too coarse (60-150 μm) to be analysed by a microanalytical laser which itself has a spot size of 20-90 μm. The original powders are then further ground and pressed according to material-specific grinding protocols down to the nanometer range, whereby they are sufficiently homogeneous for microanalytical techniques. Customer-specific materials can also processed into “in-house” reference materials.

It all began during the refurbishment of the acid digestion lab at Kiel University. During this time, no solid samples and or reference materials could be dissolved and analyzed by our routine methods. The solution to this problem was the start of the production of our first powder-pressed pellets of reference materials and samples for LA-ICP-MS analysis. In recent years, microanalytical techniques for in-situ solid state analysis (e.g., LA-ICP-MS, LIBS, μXRF) have vastly improved, yielding a wide variety of very powerful instruments. However, the development of suitable reference materials, which are sufficiently homogeneous for microanalysis and thus the validation of analytical data, according to ISO guidelines, is trailing behind.

There is a large variety of powdered reference materials for analytical quality assurance and calibration. With a high-performance mill, we can now reduce the grain size of these reference materials down to the nanometer range. This makes it possible to produce extremely homogeneous pressed pellets
with an extremely smooth surface, which are particularly suitable for microanalytical techniques. What also distinguishes our “nanopellets” from previous pressed powder pellets is the lack of any binders, which would reduce the material’s quality.