Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
Clim. Past, 10, 1291–1304, 2014
Clim. Past, 10, 1291–1304, 2014

Research article 04 Jul 2014

Research article | 04 Jul 2014

New online method for water isotope analysis of speleothem fluid inclusions using laser absorption spectroscopy (WS-CRDS)

S. Affolter1,2, D. Fleitmann2,3, and M. Leuenberger1,2 S. Affolter et al.
  • 1Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 3now at: Department of Archaeology, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences and Centre for Past Climate Change, University of Reading, Whiteknights, P.O. Box 227, Reading RG6 6AB, UK

Abstract. A new online method to analyse water isotopes of speleothem fluid inclusions using a wavelength scanned cavity ring down spectroscopy (WS-CRDS) instrument is presented. This novel technique allows us simultaneously to measure hydrogen and oxygen isotopes for a released aliquot of water. To do so, we designed a new simple line that allows the online water extraction and isotope analysis of speleothem samples. The specificity of the method lies in the fact that fluid inclusions release is made on a standard water background, which mainly improves the δ D robustness.

To saturate the line, a peristaltic pump continuously injects standard water into the line that is permanently heated to 140 °C and flushed with dry nitrogen gas. This permits instantaneous and complete vaporisation of the standard water, resulting in an artificial water background with well-known δ D and δ18O values. The speleothem sample is placed in a copper tube, attached to the line, and after system stabilisation it is crushed using a simple hydraulic device to liberate speleothem fluid inclusions water. The released water is carried by the nitrogen/standard water gas stream directly to a Picarro L1102-i for isotope determination. To test the accuracy and reproducibility of the line and to measure standard water during speleothem measurements, a syringe injection unit was added to the line.

Peak evaluation is done similarly as in gas chromatography to obtain &delta D; and δ18O isotopic compositions of measured water aliquots. Precision is better than 1.5 ‰ for δ D and 0.4 ‰ for δ18O for water measurements for an extended range (−210 to 0 ‰ for δ D and −27 to 0 ‰ for δ18O) primarily dependent on the amount of water released from speleothem fluid inclusions and secondarily on the isotopic composition of the sample. The results show that WS-CRDS technology is suitable for speleothem fluid inclusion measurements and gives results that are comparable to the isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) technique.