Not too long ago, data storage was expensive, and most mass spectrometry results were integrated and/or averaged, which was ok, because they were solution analyses.

But with the introduction and evolution of laser ablation ICP-MS, time became a proxy for depth or distance, and averaging was no longer an option. As researchers warmed to the idea of depth profiling and 2D imaging, larger and larger datasets were obtained. Before long, these could no longer be handled by existing software solutions.

Iolite was an attempt to provide a flexible, but powerful, data structure and visualisation environment, where every step of the data reduction process could be visually inspected. Iolite was developed from an original concept by John Hellstrom, under a Hermon Slade Foundation Grant to Janet Hergt and Jon Woodhead. A few key Data Reduction Schemes (Trace_Elements and UPbGeochron) adopted innovative approaches to data reduction and, as a result of this and its ease of use, iolite has now become one of the most popular LA-ICP-MS data reduction packages.

Although originally intended for use with LA-ICP-MS data, iolite is adaptable to any time-resolved data source. For example, TIMS analyses are now being recorded in time-resolved mode and imported into iolite (source link) to reduce data from long analytical sessions (on the order of days). Similarly, solution ICP-MS data are supported by iolite. For example, double-spiked stable isotope data are now inverted on a time-slice-by-time-slice basis for improved mass bias correction (source link). There is a constantly growing range of new analytical techniques that are taking advantage of the iolite approach.

Iolite remains at the forefront of data reduction

Iolite remains at the forefront of data reduction and visualisation techniques applied to mass spectrometry data, with two new imaging techniques published recently in peer-reviewed journals, new Add-Ons created by third-parties, and international workshops conducted regularly. Iolite is distinguished from its competitors by great support and an active user community. Iolite is compatible with all three major laser ablation systems and with around 10 different mass spectrometers (with more still in beta version).

Ongoing development is by Bence Paul, Chad Paton (now at STARPLAN), and Jon Woodhead, with the assistance and input of the Melbourne Isotope Research Group and a variety of researchers from other disciplines.