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Environ Sci Technol. 2003 May 15;37(10):2267-73.

Accuracy of continuous ice-core trace-element analysis by inductively coupled plasma sector field mass spectrometry.

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Paul Scherrer Institute, CH-5232 Villigen PSI, CH-5232 Switzerland.


Trace elements trapped in glaciers are important indicators for the characterization of past biogeochemical cycles, the identification of numerous sources and their varying strength, and thus indirectly provide insight into past climate variations. However, this necessitates highly resolved and continuous records of trace elements in ice. To obtain records corresponding to these requirements, a continuous ice-core melting (CIM) device was coupled to an inductively coupled plasma sector field mass spectrometer (ICP-SFMS). Accuracy of this newly developed method was tested by replicate analysis of longitudinally cut ice-core sections (reproducibility) and by comparing results of the continuous method with the conventional decontamination and analysis procedure. The new, fast method is suited to accurately determine concentrations of a number of elements, such as Li, Na, Mg, Ca, Mn, Co, Br, Sr, Mo, and Tl. However, for 18 elements (including Al and lanthanides) observed concentrations were underestimated when analyzed using the continuous method. Possible explanations of these low concentrations are (i) incomplete dissolution of mineral dust particles contained in the ice resulting from a delayed acidification step and/or (ii) adsorption of dissolved trace elements or mineral dust particles on the surface of the ice melting device.

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