Advances in laser-based isotope ratio measurements: selected applications
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Small molecules exhibit characteristic ro-vibrational transitions in the near- and mid-infrared spectral regions, which are strongly influenced by isotopic substitution. This gift of nature has made it possible to use laser spectroscopy for the accurate analysis of the isotopic composition of gaseous samples. Nowadays, laser spectroscopy is clearly recognized as a valid alternative to isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Laser-based instruments are leaving the research laboratory stage and are being used by a growing number of isotope researchers for significant advances in their own field of research. In this review article, we discuss the current status and new frontiers of research on high-sensitivity and high-precision laser spectroscopy for isotope ratio analyses. Although many of our comments will be generally applicable to laser isotope ratio analyses in molecules of environmental importance, this paper concerns itself primarily with water and carbon dioxide, two molecules that were studied extensively in our respective laboratories. A complete coverage of the field is practically not feasible in the space constraints of this issue, and in any case doomed to fail, considering the large body of work that has appeared ever since the review by Kerstel in 2004 (Handbook of Stable Isotope Analytical Techniques, Chapt. 34, pp. 759–787).
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