High speed, high resolution, and continuous chemical analysis of ice cores using a melter and ion chromatography

Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Nov 1;40(21):6764-9. doi: 10.1021/es061188a.


Measurement of trace chemical impurities in ice cores contributes to the reconstruction of records of the atmospheric environment and of the climate system. Ion chromatography (IC) is an effective analytical technique for ionic species in ice cores but has been used on discretely prepared ice samples, resulting in extensive and slow sample preparation and potential for contamination. A new technique has been developed that utilizes IC as the online detection technique in a melter-based continuous flow system for quantitative determination of major ionic chemical impurities. The system, called CFA-IC for continuous flow analysis with ion chromatography detection, consists of an ice core melter, several ion chromatographs, and an interface that distributes meltwater to the IC instruments. The CFA-IC technique combines the accuracy, precision, and ease of use of IC measurement with the enhanced speed and depth resolution of continuous melting systems and is capable of virtually continuous, high-speed and high-resolution chemical analysis of long ice cores. The new technique and operating procedures have been tested and validated with the analysis of over 100 m of ice cores from Antarctica. The current CFA-IC system provides an all-major-ion analysis speed of up to 8 m a day at a depth resolution of approximately 2 cm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antarctic Regions
  • Chromatography, Ion Exchange / methods*
  • Climate
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Ice
  • Ions
  • Models, Chemical
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Water Movements


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Ice
  • Ions