Hg stable isotope analysis by the double-spike method

Chris Mead, Thomas M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent publications suggest great potential for analysis of Hg stable isotope abundances to elucidate sources and/or chemical processes that control the environmental impact of mercury. We have developed a new MC-ICP-MS method for analysis of mercury isotope ratios using the double-spike approach, in which a solution containing enriched 196Hg and 204Hg is mixed with samples and provides a means to correct for instrumental mass bias and most isotopic fractionation that may occur during sample preparation and introduction into the instrument. Large amounts of isotopic fractionation induced by sample preparation and introduction into the instrument (e.g., by batch reactors) are corrected for. This may greatly enhance various Hg pre-concentration methods by correcting for minor fractionation that may occur during preparation and removing the need to demonstrate 100% recovery. Current precision, when ratios are normalized to the daily average, is 0.06‰, 0.06‰, 0.05‰, and 0.05‰ (2σ) for 202Hg/ 198Hg, 201Hg/198Hg, 200Hg/ 198Hg, and 199Hg/198Hg, respectively. This is slightly better than previously published methods. Additionally, this precision was attained despite the presence of large amounts of other Hg isotopes (e.g., 5.0% atom percent 198Hg) in the spike solution; substantially better precision could be achieved if purer 196Hg were used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1529-1538
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical and bioanalytical chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
  • Mercury
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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