Project 4

Method development and optimization for precise isotope measurements at ultra-trace levels in environmental samples

Lead partner: ALS Scandinavia AB, Sweden
Marie Curie fellow: Nicola Pallavicini, Italy (ESR, PhD student)

Isotopic ratios can be a valuable tool to determine nature and source of metals in the environment. Because of extremely low environmentally-relevant concentrations, accurate isotope ratio measurements represent an analytical challenge for many trace and ultra-trace elements. For example, Osmium, an ultra-trace element part of the platinum group metals, has gained rising interest in recent years. Side product of chromite ore smelting and car catalyst, Osmium oxidized form (OsO4) can be regarded as one of the most toxic known gas-phase contaminants. Its long term accumulation and effects in different environmental compartments have not been fully explored yet.

The project will be focused in optimizing analytical methods necessary to determine concentration and isotope ratios of trace elements at relevant levels in biological and environmental matrices.

Sample analyzed will include small-sized mammals’ tissues and environmental samples from northern Sweden and the analysis will be performed with ICP-MS with both a traditional nebulization and non-traditional sample gas-phase introduction systems at ALS laboratories. For concentration determination, calibration by Isotopic Dilution technique will be performed.

The aim is to detect the presence of contaminants in samples and to obtain reliable results from concentration and isotopic ratios measurements, in order to gain information on pollution source(s), accumulation and metabolism.