Coupled Si and O isotope measurements of meteoritic material by laser fluorination isotope ratio mass spectrometry

J Mass Spectrom. 2019 Aug;54(8):667-675. doi: 10.1002/jms.4381.


We present a procedure for the determination of the isotopic ratios of silicon and oxygen from the same aliquot of anhydrous silicate material. The sample is placed in a bromine pentafluoride atmosphere as it is heated with a CO2 laser system releasing silicon tetrafluoride and oxygen gasses. The oxygen gas is then purified to remove other reaction by-products through several liquid nitrogen traps before being captured onto a molecular sieve and transferred to an isotope ratio mass spectrometer. The silicon tetrafluoride gas is then purified using a supplementary line by repeatedly freezing to -196°C with liquid nitrogen and then thawing with an ethanol slurry at -110°C through a series of metal and Pyrex traps. The purified gas is then condensed into a Pyrex sample tube before it is transferred to an isotope ratio mass spectrometer for silicon isotope ratio measurements. This system has silicon yields of greater than 90% for pure quartz, olivine, and garnet standards and has a reproducibility of ±0.1‰ (2σ) for pure quartz for both oxygen and silicon isotope measurements. Meteoritic samples were also successfully analyzed to demonstrate this system's ability to measure the isotopic ratio composition of bulk powders with precision. This unique technique allows for the fluorination of planetary material without the need for wet chemistry. Though designed to analyze small aliquots of meteoritic material (1.5 to 3 mg), this approach can also be used to investigate refractory terrestrial samples where traditional fluorination is not suitable.

Keywords: isotope ratio mass spectrometry; laser fluorination; meteorites; oxygen isotopes; silicon isotopes; stable isotope geochemistry.