Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 386, Issue 1, pp 152–160 | Cite as

Determination of 234U/238U isotope ratios in environmental waters by quadrupole ICP-MS after U stripping from alpha-spectrometry counting sources

  • José Luis MasEmail author
  • Renli Ma
  • Cameron McLeod
  • Jesús González-Labajo
  • Alan Cox
  • Paul Watson
Technical Note


The 234U/238U isotope ratio has been widely used as a tracer for geochemical processes in underground aquifers. Quadrupole-based inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) equipped with a high-efficiency nebulizer and a membrane desolvator was employed for the determination of 234U/238U isotope ratios in natural water samples. The instrumental limit of detection for 234U was at the low pg L−1 level with very low sample consumption. Measurement precision (234U/238U) was 3–5% for bottled mineral water with elevated uranium concentration (>1 μg L−1). For the analysis of groundwater samples from the Almonte-Marisma underground aquifer (Huelva, Spain), uranium was stripped from stainless steel planchets that had previously been used as radiometric counting sources for alpha-particle spectrometry. Potential spectral interferences from other metals introduced during the dissolution were investigated. Matrix-matched blank solutions were needed to subtract the background on 234U due to the formation of platinum argides, and to allow for mass bias correction and background correction. The Pt appears to be an impurity present in the stainless steel, either as a minor component by itself or after extraction from the anode and a subsequent uranium electrodeposition. The 234U/238U isotope ratio data were in very good agreement with those of alpha spectrometry, while precision was improved by a factor of up to 10 and counting time was reduced down to ~20 min (10 replicate measurements).


Mass spectrometry/ICP-MS Water Radiochemical methods Isotope ratio 



One of the authors (Jose Luis Mas) gratefully acknowledges the Regional Government of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucia) for the financial support for his stay at the University of Sheffield.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Luis Mas
    • 1
    Email author
  • Renli Ma
    • 2
  • Cameron McLeod
    • 3
  • Jesús González-Labajo
    • 1
  • Alan Cox
    • 3
  • Paul Watson
    • 4
  1. 1.Departamento de Física Aplicada IUniversidad de Sevilla, Escuela Universitaria PolitécnicaSevillaSpain
  2. 2.School of Applied SciencesNorthumbria UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK
  3. 3.Department of Analytical ChemistryUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  4. 4.Elemental Scientific, Inc.OmahaUSA

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