High-precision determination of lithium and magnesium isotopes utilising single column separation and multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.

04 Jun 2018

RATIONALE: Li and Mg isotopes are increasingly used as a combined tool within the geosciences. However, established methods require separate sample purification protocols utilising several column separation procedures. This study presents a single-step cation-exchange method for quantitative separation of trace levels of Li and Mg from multiple sample matrices. METHODS: The column method utilises the macro-porous AGMP-50 resin and a high-aspect ratio column, allowing quantitative separation of Li and Mg from natural waters, sediments, rocks and carbonate matrices following the same elution protocol. High-precision isotope determination was conducted by multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICPMS) on the Thermo Scientific™ NEPTUNE Plus™ fitted with 1013  Ω amplifiers which allow accurate and precise measurements at ion beams ≤0.51 V. RESULTS: Sub-nanogram Li samples (0.3-0.5 ng) were regularly separated (yielding Mg masses of 1-70 μg) using the presented column method. The total sample consumption during isotopic analysis is <0.5 ng Li and <115 ng Mg with long-term external 2σ precisions of ±0.39‰ for δ7 Li and ±0.07‰ for δ26 Mg. The results for geological reference standards and seawater analysed by our method are in excellent agreement with published values despite the order of magnitude lower sample consumption. CONCLUSIONS: The possibility of eluting small sample masses and the low analytical sample consumption make this method ideal for samples of limited mass or low Li concentration, such as foraminifera, mineral separates or dilute river waters.