Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 20, pp 16051–16059 | Cite as

Laboratory calibration and field testing of the Chemcatcher-Metal for trace levels of rare earth elements in estuarine waters

  • Jördis Petersen
  • Daniel Pröfrock
  • Albrecht Paschke
  • Jose A. C. Broekaert
  • Andreas Prange
Research Article


Little knowledge is available about water concentrations of rare earth elements (REEs) in the marine environment. The direct measurement of REEs in coastal waters is a challenging task due to their ultra-low concentrations as well as the high salt content in the water samples. To quantify these elements at environmental concentrations (pg L−1 to low ng L−1) in coastal waters, current analytical techniques are generally expensive and time consuming, and require complex chemical preconcentration procedures. Therefore, an integrative passive sampler was tested as a more economic alternative sampling approach for REE analysis. We used a Chemcatcher-Metal passive sampler consisting of a 3M Empore Chelating Disk as the receiving phase, as well as a cellulose acetate membrane as the diffusion-limiting layer. The effect of water turbulence and temperature on the uptake rates of REEs was analyzed during 14-day calibration experiments by a flow-through exposure tank system. The sampling rates were in the range of 0.42 mL h−1 (13 °C; 0.25 m s−1) to 4.01 mL h−1 (13 °C; 1 m s−1). Similar results were obtained for the different REEs under investigation. The water turbulence was the most important influence on uptake. The uptake rates were appropriate to ascertain time-weighted average concentrations of REEs during a field experiment in the Elbe Estuary near Cuxhaven Harbor (exposure time 4 weeks). REE concentrations were determined to be in the range 0.2 to 13.8 ng L−1, where the highest concentrations were found for neodymium and samarium. In comparison, most of the spot samples measured along the Chemcatcher samples had REE concentrations below the limit of detection, in particular due to necessary dilution to minimize the analytical problems that arise with the high salt content in marine water samples. This study was among the first efforts to measure REE levels in the field using a passive sampling approach. Our results suggest that passive samplers could be an effective tool to monitor ultra-trace concentrations of REEs in coastal waters with high salt content.


Passive sampling Chemcatcher Trace metal analysis Rare earth elements Water Pollution ICP-MS 

Supplementary material

11356_2015_4823_MOESM1_ESM.docx (36 kb)
Supplementary data fig. 1Structures of the REE-complexes formed with iminodiactic acid as a function of the pH (DOCX 36 kb)
11356_2015_4823_MOESM2_ESM.docx (245 kb)
Supplementary data fig. 2Experimental setup of the field exposure of Chemcatcher samplers for deployment (DOCX 245 kb)
11356_2015_4823_MOESM3_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary data table 1Instrumental setting of the 7500-ICP-MS and 8800-ICP-MS-MS (DOCX 17 kb)
11356_2015_4823_MOESM4_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary data table 2Analytical limit of detection and quantification of REEs in Chemcatcher blank samplers (DOCX 17 kb)
11356_2015_4823_MOESM5_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary data table 3Average water concentrations inside the flow-through tank system (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jördis Petersen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Daniel Pröfrock
    • 1
  • Albrecht Paschke
    • 3
  • Jose A. C. Broekaert
    • 2
  • Andreas Prange
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Coastal ResearchHelmholtz-Centre-GeesthachtGeesthachtGermany
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry, Inorganic and Applied ChemistryUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of Ecological ChemistryHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZLeipzigGermany

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