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Flame Ionization Mass Spectrometry: Isotope Ratio Determinations for Potassium

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The air/acetylene flame provides a convenient ion source for the determination of potassium isotopic ratios by mass spectrometry. Unlike the argon inductively coupled plasma (ICP), the flame provides low background in the mass region of interest. Ion production is quite satisfactory for isotope ratio measurements at the micrograms per milliliter (μg/mL) level and slightly below, with 1 μg/mL potassium giving about 105counts/second at a nominal mass-to-charge ratio of 39. The detection limit for potassium was 2-3 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). The ratio of 41K/39K was measured with 0.5-1% relative standard deviation, and a 41K spike representing 0.2% of the total potassium was readily detected. Both signal levels and signal stability were improved by adding a second easily ionized element such as cesium to samples and standards. Alternatively, a cesium solution could be aspirated for about 1 minute between sample measurements to ensure signal stability.

Keywords: Flame spectroscopy; Mass spectroscopy

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1366/0003702914336444

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 408, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225 2: U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 408, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225; permanent address: Department of Chemistry, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211. Work performed while on leave with the U.S. Geological Survey

Publication date: June 1, 1991

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