The use of wet chemical oxidation with high-amplification isotope ratio mass spectrometry (WCO-IRMS) to measure stable isotope values of dissolved organic carbon in seawater

Christopher L. Osburn,Gilles St-Jean

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 5:296-308 (2007) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2007.5.296

ABSTRACT: Few measurements of the carbon stable isotope value (δ13C) of marine dissolved organic carbon (DOC), the largest pool of reduced carbon in the ocean, have been made because of analytical obstacles due to the interference of halides and the low amount of DOC in seawater. By using concentrated persulfate in a wet chemical oxidation organic carbon analyzer coupled to an isotope ratio mass spectrometry (WCO-IRMS) the analytical obstacles are overcome. Key to this method is reducing the persulfate blank and increasing the IRMS signal with larger amplifier gain resistors. After these simple modifications, a 2 mL sample provides enough signal to make precise measurements of DOC concentration and δ13C value on up to 15 samples per day. Sodium persulfate (1.68 mol L–1) is cleaned by pre-heating and sparging with ultrahigh purity helium. In the WCO analyzer, 6 mL cleaned persulfate is added to 2 mL sample at 98°C for 8.5 min to completely oxidize DOC to CO2. After quantitative measurement by nondispersive IR, the gases contained in the exhaust are swept through a cleanup reactor, separated by a GC column and introduced to the IRMS for δ13C measurement. Complete recovery of the DOC and δ13C values was confirmed with two DOC standards added individually to seawater. IRMS precision was confirmed by measuring a range of sea water samples. On several coastal water samples measured using this system, δ13C-DOC values ranging from –22‰ to –25‰. These results were consistent with published reports of seawater δ13C-DOC using other methods.