Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 405, Issue 9, pp 2771–2783 | Cite as

Heavy element stable isotope ratios : analytical approaches and applications

  • Masaharu Tanimizu
  • Yoshiki Sohrin
  • Takafumi Hirata


Continuous developments in inorganic mass spectrometry techniques, including a combination of an inductively coupled plasma ion source and a magnetic sector-based mass spectrometer equipped with a multiple-collector array, have revolutionized the precision of isotope ratio measurements, and applications of inorganic mass spectrometry for biochemistry, geochemistry, and marine chemistry are beginning to appear on the horizon. Series of pioneering studies have revealed that natural stable isotope fractionations of many elements heavier than S (e.g., Fe, Cu, Zn, Sr, Ce, Nd, Mo, Cd, W, Tl, and U) are common on Earth, and it had been widely recognized that most physicochemical reactions or biochemical processes induce mass-dependent isotope fractionation. The variations in isotope ratios of the heavy elements can provide new insights into past and present biochemical and geochemical processes. To achieve this, the analytical community is actively solving problems such as spectral interference, mass discrimination drift, chemical separation and purification, and reduction of the contamination of analytes. This article describes data calibration and standardization protocols to allow interlaboratory comparisons or to maintain traceability of data, and basic principles of isotope fractionation in nature, together with high-selectivity and high-yield chemical separation and purification techniques for stable isotope studies.


Isotope ratios of the elements can vary through almost all the chemical and biochemical reactions in nature


Heavy element stable isotopes Multiple-collector array inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry Metallomics Seawater Isotope standard Isotope effect 



We are grateful to Klaus Heumann (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany) and Frank Vanhaecke (Ghent University, Belgium) for much advice and constructive comments regarding the manuscript. This work was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (S21224013) to T.H. from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan. This work was also partly financed through grants to Y.S. from the Steel Foundation for Environmental Protection Technology and from a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masaharu Tanimizu
    • 1
  • Yoshiki Sohrin
    • 2
  • Takafumi Hirata
    • 3
  1. 1.Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Sciences and TechnologyNankokuJapan
  2. 2.Institute for Chemical ResearchKyoto UniversityUji CityJapan
  3. 3.Earth and Planetary SciencesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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