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- Measurement uncertainty (2)
- Delta value (1)
- Isotope ratio (1)
- Isotope reference material (1)
- Lead isotope variations (1)
- Metrology in chemistry (1)
- Molar mass (1)
- Radiogenic isotopes (1)
- Traceability (1)
- absolute measurements (1)

#### Organisationseinheit der BAM

Isotope amount ratios (hereafter referred to as simply isotope ratios) are proving useful in an ever increasing array of applications that range from studies unravelling transport processes, to pinpointing the provenance of specific samples as well as trace element quantification by using isotope dilution mass spectrometry (IDMS). These expanding applications encompass fields as diverse as archaeology, food chemistry, forensic science, geochemistry, medicine and metrology. However, to be effective tools, the isotope ratio data must be reliable and traceable to enable the comparability of measurement.
The importance of traceability and comparability in isotope ratio analysis has already been recognized by the Inorganic Analysis Working Group (IAWG) within the CCQM. Three pilot studies have focused on the quality of isotope ratio determinations (P48 “U isotope ratios in urine”, P75 “stable isotopes in Methionine”, P105 “87Sr/86Sr in wine”). Moreover, isotope ratio measurements are fundamental to IDMS amount of substance determinations. For example, when Pb quantification using IDMS is undertaken, this requires the measurements of Pb isotope ratios. While the requirements for isotope ratio accuracy and precision in the case of of IDMS are generally quite modest, “absolute” Pb isotope ratio measurements for geochemical age dating and source rock characterization as well as forensic provenance and fingerprinting studies require Pb isotope ratio measurements of the highest quality. To support present and future CMCs on isotope ratio determinations, a Key Comparison was urgently needed. Therefore, it was decided at the IAWG meeting in Paris in April 2011 that a Key Comparison on the determination of Pb isotope ratios in a pure Pb solution and in a bronze sample should be organized and accompanied by a pilot study.
Measuring Pb isotope amount ratios in a pure Pb solution, while seemingly straight forward, rigorously tests the ability of analyst to correct for any instrumental effects (such as mass discrimination and blank correction) on the measured ratios. Pb, present in trace amounts in a metal matrix sample (e.g. Pb in bronze), provides a real world test of the whole chemical and instrumental procedure, from chemical separation and sample purification to analysis and subsequent correction of appropriate instrumental effects on the separated samples.
A suitable bronze material with a Pb mass fraction between 10 and 100 mg·kg-1 was available at BAM. A high purity solution of Pb with a mass fraction of approximately 100 mg·kg-1 was also available. By comparing the Pb isotope ratio results obtained for the bronze sample with the Pb isotope ratio results from the Pb solution, potential biases arising from the processing of the bronze sample could be effectively identified and separated from the instrumental effects arising from the measurement and data processing protocol.

Lead isotope amount ratios are commonly used in diverse fields such as archaeometry, geochemistry and forensic science. Currently, five reference materials with certified lead isotope amount ratios are available, namely NIST SRM 981, 982 and 983, GBW-04442 and NMIJ 3681-a. Only NIST SRM 981 and NMIJ 3681-a have approximately natural isotopic compositions, and NIST SRM 981 is predominantly used for correcting mass discrimination/mass fractionation in the applied mass spectrometric procedures. Consequently, there is no other certified reference material available to be used for validation and/or quality control of the analytical procedures applied to lead isotope amount ratio measurements. To fill this gap, two new reference materials have been produced and certified for their lead isotope amount ratios. For both certified reference materials, complete uncertainty budgets have been calculated and SI traceability has been established. This provides the users with independent means for validating and verifying their analytical procedures and for conducting quality control measures. ERM-EB400 is a bronze material with a nominal lead mass fraction of 45 mg kg-1 and certified lead isotope amount ratios of n(206Pb)/n(204Pb) = 18.072(17) mol mol-1, n(207Pb)/n(204Pb) = 15.578(18) mol mol-1 and n(208Pb)/n(204Pb) = 38.075(46) mol mol-1 with the associated expanded uncertainties (k = 2) given in brackets. ERM-AE142 is a high-purity solution of lead in 2% nitric acid with a nominal mass fraction of 100 mg kg-1 and certified Pb isotope amount ratios of n(206Pb)/n(204Pb) = 21.114(17) mol mol-1, n(207Pb)/n(204Pb) = 15.944(17) mol mol-1 and n(208Pb)/n(204Pb) = 39.850(44) mol mol-1 with the associated expanded uncertainties (k = 2) given in brackets. Both materials are specifically designed to fall within the natural lead isotopic variation and to assist users with the validation and verification of their analytical procedures. Note that while one of these reference materials requires the chemical separation of Pb from its matrix (ERM-EB400), the other does not (ERM-AE142). As additional information, δ208/206PbNIST SRM981 values are provided for both materials. For ERM-AE142, a delta value of δ208/206PbNIST SRM981 = -28.21(30) ‰ was obtained, and for ERM-EB400, a delta value of δ208/206PbNIST SRM981 = -129.47(38) ‰ was obtained, with the associated expanded uncertainties (k = 2) given in brackets.

For the first time, an ab initio calibration for absolute Mg isotope ratios was carried out, without making any a priori assumptions. All quantities influencing the calibration such as the purity of the enriched isotopes or liquid and solid densities were carefully analysed and their associated uncertainties were considered. A second unique aspect was the preparation of three sets of calibration solutions, which were applied to calibrate three multicollector ICPMS instruments by quantifying the correction factors for instrumental mass discrimination. Those fully calibrated mass spectrometers were then used to determine the absolute Mg isotope ratios in three candidate European Reference Materials (ERM)-AE143, -AE144 and -AE145, with ERM-AE143 becoming the new primary isotopic reference material for absolute isotope ratio and delta measurements. The isotope amount ratios of ERM-AE143 are n(25Mg)/n(24Mg) = 0.126590(20) mol/mol and n(26Mg)/n(24Mg) = 0.139362(43) mol/mol, with the resulting isotope amount fractions of x(24Mg) = 0.789920(46) mol/mol, x(25Mg) = 0.099996(14) mol/ mol and x(26Mg) = 0.110085(28) mol/mol and an atomic weight of Ar(Mg) = 24.305017(73); all uncertainties were stated for k = 2. This isotopic composition is identical within uncertainties to those stated on the NIST SRM 980 certificate. The candidate materials ERM-AE144 and -AE145 are isotopically lighter than ERM-AE143 by 1.6 ‰ and 1.3 ‰, respectively, concerning their n(26Mg)/n(24Mg) ratio. The relative combined standard uncertainties are ≤0.1 ‰ for the isotope ratio n(25Mg)/n(24Mg) and ≤0.15 ‰ for the isotope ratio n(26Mg)/ n(24Mg). In addition to characterizing the new isotopic reference materials, it was demonstrated that commonly used fractionation laws are invalid for correcting Mg isotope ratios in multicollector ICPMS as they result in a bias which is not covered by its associated uncertainty. Depending on their type, fractionation laws create a bias up to several per mil, with the exponential law showing the smallest bias between 0.1 ‰ and 0.7 ‰.