The measurements of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) in seawater are key in global change and coastal eutrophication studies. Nowadays, the high-temperature combustion (HTC) technique is a widely used method for DOC and TDN analysis. However, uncertainties exist about the operation of the catalyst in the conversion process of DOC and TDN in the HTC method. In this study, five different 'catalyst' materials were tested for their blanks, calibration slopes, and conversion efficiency of DOC and TDN using the Shimadzu TOC 5000A total organic carbon analyser coupled to a Sievers NCD 255 nitrogen chemiluminescence detector. The materials included four metallic catalysts (Shimadzu and Johnson 0.5% Pt-alumina, 13% Cu(II)O-alumina, 0.5% Pd-alumina) and quartz beads. The results indicated that DOC blank signals for the HTC approach using metallic catalysts with an alumina support are higher compared with quartz beads, as a result of the amphoteric nature of the alumina. However, the slopes of the standard calibration graphs were lowest for DOC and TDN determinations on the quartz beads. The DOC recoveries for the metallic catalysts were close to 100% for all compounds tested, with the exception of ammonium pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate. Using quartz beads, poor recoveries were obtained for a range of organic compounds, including the commonly used calibration compounds potassium hydrogen phthalate and glycine. The TDN recoveries for all compounds were typically >90%, with the exception of NaNO2. Furthermore, analysis using the CuO-alumina and Pd-alumina catalysts and quartz beads showed low recoveries for NH4Cl. This study showed that catalyst performance should be verified on a regular basis using model compounds and blank checks made during every run, and that the Shimadzu 0.5% Pt-alumina material was an efficient catalyst for DOC and TDN analyses using the coupled total organic carbon-nitrogen chemiluminescence detector (TOC-NCD) analyser.
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