Precise determination of element/calcium ratios in calcareous samples using sector field inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

Anal Chem. 1999 Aug 1;71(15):3248-53. doi: 10.1021/ac981410x.


A new method was developed for rapid and precise simultaneous determination of Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca, Mn/Ca, Cd/Ca, Ba/Ca and U/Ca ratios in foraminiferal shells using sector field inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS). Element/calcium ratios were determined directly from intensity ratios using external, matrix-matched standard to correct for instrumental mass discrimination. Because of large differences in the abundance of chemical constituents of the foraminiferal shell, major elemental ratios were determined in analog mode (using (24)Mg, (43)Ca, (44)Ca, (55)Mn, and (88)Sr) whereas trace elemental ratios were determined in pulse-counting mode (using (111)Cd, (138)Ba, (238)U, and the low-abundance (46)Ca isotope). Matrix-induced variations in mass discrimination over a calcium concentration range of 2.0-24.5 mM were observed only for Mg/Ca and Cd/Ca ratios. However, these effects are negligible if the samples and standard calcium concentration are within a factor of 2-3. Multiratio method reproducibility was better than previously reported for other ICPMS methods yielding precision (1σ) of Sr/Ca = 0.45%; Mg/Ca = 0.45%, Mn/Ca = 0.8%, Cd/Ca = 1.7%, Ba/Ca = 0.7%, and U/Ca = 1.4% for foraminifera samples as small as 25 μg. Using this approach for a single-ratio analysis, Sr/Ca ratios were determined with precision of 0.06% (1σ) on carbonate samples as small as a single foraminifera shell (<10 μg). The new method is more sensitive, more precise, and simpler to use than previously available ICPMS techniques. It provides an efficient tool for simultaneous determination of several elemental ratios of paleoceanographic interest in a single foraminiferal sample, thereby reducing overall sample size requirement and analysis time.