A 10-fold improvement in the precision of boron isotopic analysis by negative thermal ionization mass spectrometry

Jason Jiun San Shen, Chen Feng You

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Boron isotopes are potentially very important to cosmochemistry, geochemistry, and paleoceanography. However, the application has been hampered by the large sample required for positive thermal ionization mass spectrometry (PTIMS), and high mass fractionation for negative-TIMS (NTIMS). Running as BO2-, NTIMS is very sensitive and requires only nanogram sized samples, but it has rather poor precision (∼0.7-2.0 ‰) as a result of the larger mass fractionation associated with the relatively light ion. In contrast, running as the much heavier molecule of Cs2BO2+, PTIMS usually achieves better precision around 0.1-0.4 ‰. Moreover, there is a consistent 10 ‰ offset in the 11B/10B ratio for NIST SRM 951 standard boric acid between the NTIMS and the certified value, but the cause of this offset is unclear. In this paper, we have adapted a technique we developed earlier to measure the 138La/139La using LaO+ 1 to improve the NTIMS technique for BO2. We were able to correct for instrumental fractionation by measuring BO2- species not only at masses of 42 and 43, but also at 45, which enabled us to normalize 45BO2/43BO2 to an empirical 18O/16O value. We found that both I45/I42 = (11B16O16O) and (I43/I42)C = (11B16O16O/ 10B16O16O) vary linearly with (I45/I43)C × 0.5 = (11B16O18O/11B16 O16O) × 0.5 = 18O/16O. In addition, different activators and different chemical forms of B yield different slopes for the fractionation lines. After normalizing 11B16O18O/11 B16O16O ×0.5 to a fixed 18O/16O value, we obtained a mean 11B/10B value of NIST SRM 951 that matches the NIST certified value at 4.0430 ± 0.0015 (±0.36‰, n = 11). As a result, our technique can achieve precision and accuracy comparable to that of PTIMS with only 1%o of the sample required. This new NTIMS technique for B isotopes is critical to the studies of early solids in the solar system and individual foraminifera in sediments that require both high sensitivity and precision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1972-1977
Number of pages6
JournalAnalytical chemistry
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2003 May 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry


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