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Iron Isotope Composition of Particles Produced by UV-Femtosecond Laser Ablation of Natural Oxides, Sulfides, and Carbonates

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posted on 17.12.2013 by Francois-Xavier d’Abzac, Brian L. Beard, Andrew D. Czaja, Hiromi Konishi, James J. Schauer, Clark M. Johnson
The need for femtosecond laser ablation (fs-LA) systems coupled to MC-ICP-MS to accurately perform in situ stable isotope analyses remains an open question, because of the lack of knowledge concerning ablation-related isotopic fractionation in this regime. We report the first iron isotope analysis of size-resolved, laser-induced particles of natural magnetite, siderite, pyrrhotite, and pyrite, collected through cascade impaction, followed by analysis by solution nebulization MC-ICP-MS, as well as imaging using electron microscopy. Iron mass distributions are independent of mineralogy, and particle morphology includes both spheres and agglomerates for all ablated phases. X-ray spectroscopy shows elemental fractionation in siderite (C-rich agglomerates) and pyrrhotite/pyrite (S-rich spheres). We find an increase in 56Fe/54Fe ratios of +2‰, +1.2‰, and +0.8‰ with increasing particle size for magnetite, siderite, and pyrrhotite, respectively. Fe isotope differences in size-sorted aerosols from pyrite ablation are not analytically resolvable. Experimental data are discussed using models of particles generation by Hergenröder and elemental/isotopic fractionation by Richter. We interpret the isotopic fractionation to be related to the iron condensation time scale, dependent on its saturation in the gas phase, as a function of mineral composition. Despite the isotopic variations across aerosol size fractions, total aerosol composition, as calculated from mass balance, confirms that fs-LA produces a stoichiometric sampling in terms of isotopic composition. Specifically, both elemental and isotopic fractionation are produced by particle generation processes and not by femtosecond laser–matter interactions. These results provide critical insights into the analytical requirements for laser-ablation-based stable isotope measurements of high-precision and accuracy in geological samples, including the importance of quantitative aerosol transport to the ICP.

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