An automatic on-line system is developed for the trace determination of copper and iron species in fresh waters by flame atomic absorption spectrometry using only 5 and 2 mL of sample, for copper and iron determination, respectively. This system, which includes a home-made minicolumn
of commercially available resin containing aminomethylphosphonic acid functional groups (Chelite P), comprises two operational modes. The first, used for the determination of the dissolved labile fraction (free copper and iron ions and their weak complexes) is based on the elution of this
fraction from a minicolumn containing the chelating resin loaded in-situ with the sample. The second mode is used for the determination of total trace copper and iron concentrations. This last mode is based on the retention/preconcentration of total metals on the Chelite P resin after on-line
sonoassisted digestion of water samples acidified with nitric acid (0.5 mol L−1 final concentration) to break down metal organic complexes present in fresh waters as river waters. The figures of merit for copper and iron determination in both fractions are given
and the obtained values are discussed. The analytical method was characterized and the limit of detection and limit of quantification for the two metals were 0.5 and 1.6 µg L−1 for Cu and 2.3 and 6.1 µg L−1 for Fe, respectively.
The repeatability, expressed as relative standard deviation, was in the range 1.0–2.1%. The speciation scheme was applied to the analysis of river surface water samples collected in Galicia (Northwest, Spain).
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