Determination of compound-specific Hg isotope ratios from transient signals using gas chromatography coupled to multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP/MS)
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MeHg and inorganic Hg compounds were measured in aqueous media for isotope ratio analysis using aqueous phase derivatization, followed by purge-and-trap preconcentration. Compound-specific isotope ratio measurements were performed by gas chromatography interfaced to MC-ICP/MS. Several methods of calculating isotope ratios were evaluated for their precision and accuracy and compared with conventional continuous flow cold vapor measurements. An apparent fractionation of Hg isotopes was observed during the GC elution process for all isotope pairs, which necessitated integration of signals prior to the isotope ratio calculation. A newly developed average peak ratio method yielded the most accurate isotope ratio in relation to values obtained by a continuous flow technique and the best reproducibility. Compound-specific isotope ratios obtained after GC separation were statistically not different from ratios measured by continuous flow cold vapor measurements. Typical external uncertainties were 0.16‰ RSD (n = 8) for the 202Hg/198Hg ratio of MeHg and 0.18‰ RSD for the same ratio in inorganic Hg using the optimized operating conditions. Using a newly developed reference standard addition method, the isotopic composition of inorganic Hg and MeHg synthesized from this inorganic Hg was measured in the same run, obtaining a value of δ 202Hg = −1.49 ± 0.47 (2SD; n = 10). For optimum performance a minimum mass of 2 ng per Hg species should be introduced onto the column.
KeywordsMulticollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry Mercury Methylmercury Isotope ratios Transient signals Speciation Gas chromatography Mass bias Isotope fractionation
We thank Brian Dimock, Dominic Larivière, Joy Zhu, Jeff Small, Qianli Xie, and Olivier Clarisse for many helpful discussions. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for helpful insight and suggested revisions. This work was funded by an NSERC COMERN (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Collaborative Mercury Research Network) grant to HH.
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