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Measurement of Isotope Abundance Variations in Nature by Gravimetric Spiking Isotope Dilution Analysis (GS-IDA)

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posted on 02.04.2013 by Gina Chew, Thomas Walczyk
Subtle variations in the isotopic composition of elements carry unique information about physical and chemical processes in nature and are now exploited widely in diverse areas of research. Reliable measurement of natural isotope abundance variations is among the biggest challenges in inorganic mass spectrometry as they are highly sensitive to methodological bias. For decades, double spiking of the sample with a mix of two stable isotopes has been considered the reference technique for measuring such variations both by multicollector-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICPMS) and multicollector-thermal ionization mass spectrometry (MC-TIMS). However, this technique can only be applied to elements having at least four stable isotopes. Here we present a novel approach that requires measurement of three isotope signals only and which is more robust than the conventional double spiking technique. This became possible by gravimetric mixing of the sample with an isotopic spike in different proportions and by applying principles of isotope dilution for data analysis (GS-IDA). The potential and principle use of the technique is demonstrated for Mg in human urine using MC-TIMS for isotopic analysis. Mg is an element inaccessible to double spiking methods as it consists of three stable isotopes only and shows great potential for metabolically induced isotope effects waiting to be explored.

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