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Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2015 Jul 15;29(13):1215-26. doi: 10.1002/rcm.7213.

Suitability of selected free-gas and dissolved-gas sampling containers for carbon isotopic analysis.

Eby P1, Gibson JJ1,2, Yi Y1,2.

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Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, 3-4476 Markham Street, Victoria, BC V8Z 7X8, Canada.
Department of Geography, University of Victoria, PO Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada.



Storage trials were conducted for 2 to 3 months using a hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide gas mixture with known carbon isotopic composition to simulate typical hold times for gas samples prior to isotopic analysis. A range of containers (both pierced and unpierced) was periodically sampled to test for δ(13)C isotopic fractionation.


Seventeen containers were tested for free-gas storage (20°C, 1 atm pressure) and 7 containers were tested for dissolved-gas storage, the latter prepared by bubbling free gas through tap water until saturated (20°C, 1 atm) and then preserved to avoid biological activity by acidifying to pH 2 with phosphoric acid and stored in the dark at 5°C. Samples were extracted using valves or by piercing septa, and then introduced into an isotope ratio mass spectrometer for compound-specific δ(13)C measurements.


For free gas, stainless steel canisters and crimp-top glass serum bottles with butyl septa were most effective at preventing isotopic fractionation (pierced and unpierced), whereas silicone and PTFE-butyl septa allowed significant isotopic fractionation. FlexFoil and Tedlar bags were found to be effective only for storage of up to 1 month. For dissolved gas, crimp-top glass serum bottles with butyl septa were again effective, whereas silicone and PTFE-butyl were not. FlexFoil bags were reliable for up to 2 months.


Our results suggest a range of preferred containers as well as several that did not perform very well for isotopic analysis. Overall, the results help establish better QA/QC procedures to avoid isotopic fractionation when storing environmental gas samples. Recommended containers for air transportation include steel canisters and glass serum bottles with butyl septa (pierced and unpierced).


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