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Biological/Biomedical Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Targets. 1. Optimizing the CO2 Reduction Step Using Zinc Dust

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journal contribution
posted on 16.12.2015, 15:22 by Seung-Hyun Kim, Peter B. Kelly, Andrew J. Clifford
Biological and biomedical applications of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) use isotope ratio mass spectrometry to quantify minute amounts of long-lived radioisotopes such as 14C. AMS target preparation involves first the oxidation of carbon (in sample of interest) to CO2 and second the reduction of CO2 to filamentous, fluffy, fuzzy, or firm graphite-like substances that coat a −400-mesh spherical iron powder (−400MSIP) catalyst. Until now, the quality of AMS targets has been variable; consequently, they often failed to produce robust ion currents that are required for reliable, accurate, precise, and high-throughput AMS for biological/biomedical applications. Therefore, we described our optimized method for reduction of CO2 to high-quality uniform AMS targets whose morphology we visualized using scanning electron microscope pictures. Key features of our optimized method were to reduce CO2 (from a sample of interest that provided 1 mg of C) using 100 ± 1.3 mg of Zn dust, 5 ± 0.4 mg of −400MSIP, and a reduction temperature of 500 °C for 3 h. The thermodynamics of our optimized method were more favorable for production of graphite-coated iron powders (GCIP) than those of previous methods. All AMS targets from our optimized method were of 100% GCIP, the graphitization yield exceeded 90%, and δ13C was −17.9 ± 0.3‰. The GCIP reliably produced strong 12C currents and accurate and precise Fm values. The observed Fm value for oxalic acid II NIST SRM deviated from its accepted Fm value of 1.3407 by only 0.0003 ± 0.0027 (mean ± SE, n = 32), limit of detection of 14C was 0.04 amol, and limit of quantification was 0.07 amol, and a skilled analyst can prepare as many as 270 AMS targets per day. More information on the physical (hardness/color), morphological (SEMs), and structural (FT-IR, Raman, XRD spectra) characteristics of our AMS targets that determine accurate, precise, and high-hroughput AMS measurement are in the companion paper.