Project

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Gaschromatograph-Verbrennungs/Pyrolyse-Elementaranalysator-Isotopenverhältnis-Massenspektrometer (GC-C/Py-EA-IRMS)

English title Gas chromatograph - combustion/pyrolysis - elemental analyzer - isotope ratio mass spectrometer (GC-C/Py-EA-IRMS)
Applicant Wilcke Wolfgang
Number 139184
Funding scheme R'EQUIP
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Pedology
Start/End 01.03.2012 - 28.02.2013
Approved amount 260'000.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Pedology
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences

Keywords (10)

stable isotope measurement; carbon stable isotope ratio; nitrogen stable isotope ratio; sulfur stable isotope ratio; hydrogen stable isotope ratio; oxygen stable isotope ratio; compound-specific stable isotope ratio; stable isotope tracer; soil biogeochemistry; isotope ratio mass spectrometry

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

Most elements consist of more than one stable isotope which differ in their atomic mass because of different numbers of neutrons in the atom nucleus. Although the stable isotopes of the same element are chemically identical, the differently heavy isotopes undergo fractionation in the environment and in technical processes. The result are small but detectable variations of the ratio of two stable isotopes in various environmental compartments which can be attributed to mixing of different sources of this element with differing stable isotope ratios or transformation processes in the environment. Thus, it is possible to distinguish sources of an element and identify processes in which the element is involved by determining the stable isotope ratio in different compartments of the environment. Furthermore, compounds artificially labeled with a certain stable isotope ratio (usually by enrichment of the rarer isotope) can be experimentally added to the environment to elucidate transformation processes of the added compound. In this project, we will establish a laboratory which allows us to measure stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen in bulk samples of soils, sediments, and plants and in specific organic or inorganic compounds. This requires the coupling of different peripheries (gas chromatograph to separate organic compounds, preconcentration unit to collect trace gases, and elemental analyzer for bulk solid phase samples) to an Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS) as detector for the stable isotope ratios. Carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur are converted by combustion and oxygen and hydrogen by high-temperature pyrolysis into the respective analytical gases used for stable isotope determination in the IRMS.This laboratory will serve for many different research approaches in the near future and will immediately be used in running research projects for (i) hydrogen isotope ratio measurement in soil organic matter and soil silicate minerals, (ii) nitrogen and oxygen isotope ratio measurements in nitrate from ecosystem solutions (rain, soil water, stream water) and in extracts from soils labeled with isotopically labeled nitrogen, and (iii) compound-specific measurement of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen isotope ratios in oxygen-containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Environmental Chemistry (S. Lundstedt)/University of Umea Sweden (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Soil Science (C. Valarezo)/Universidad Nacional de Loja Ecuador (South America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Plant Ecology (M. Fischer)/Univ. Potsdam and Berne Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Palaeoecology (W. Tinner/Oeschger Center, Univ. Berne Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Palaeogeoecology (H. Veit)/University of Berne Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Soil Science (H. Del Valle)/Centro Nacional Patagónico Argentina (South America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Soil Geography (Y. Oelmann)/Univ. Koblenz-Landau Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Biodiversity Research (W. Weißer)/University of Jena Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Plant Sciences (D. Rentsch)/University of Berne Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Soil Science (R. Bol)/Rothamsted Research Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Soil Science (W. Amelung)/University of Bonn Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel

Abstract

Stable isotope analysis at the natural abundance level and of (low enriched) isotope labels belongs to the most important tools in soil chemical and biogeochemical (ecosystem-related) research. The proposed gas chromatograph-combustion/pyrolysis - elemental analyzer - isotope ratio - mass spectrometer (GC-C/Py-EA-IRMS) device will allow for stable isotope analyses of C, N, S, O, and H in bulk materials like soil and plant samples, in inorganic chemical species like nitrate and phosphate, and in individual organic compounds which are separated with the connected gas chromatograph and on-line introduced into the elemental analyzer/mass spectrometer via a combustion/pyrolysis interface. Furthermore, it will be possible to preconcentrate and inject nitrogen gases chemically or microbially converted from individual N species in soils via the coupled GC with or without the combustion/pyrolysis interface into the EA/IRMS. The device will be used for method development of novel bulk or compound-specific isotope ratio measurement methods (30% of the time), for routine isotope analysis of bulk plant and soil materials and gasses in the framework of own research projects (50% of the time), and for routine measurement of bulk plant and soil materials of cooperating groups mainly from the Geographic Institute, the Institute of Plant Sciences, and the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research of the University of Berne (20%). The measurements will be restricted to the natural abundance level and low enriched isotope labels. The device is urgently needed in several on-going already funded research projects in which (i) the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (D-A-CH DFG Wi1601/12-2 and D-A-CH SNF 200021-E-131195/1), (ii) the response of soils, plants, and whole ecosystems to environmental change including changed element deposition and changed climate (D-A-CH DFG Wi1601/8-2 and projects in the Plant and Climate Sciences), (iii) organic matter turnover (DFG Oe516/2-1, international cooperation), and (iv) the sources of persistent organic pollutants and their oxygenated derivatives are addressed (SNF 200021_131938/1).
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