Atmospheric 21Ne abundance determined by the Helix-MC Plus mass spectrometer
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 2:40 PM
Analyses of noble gas isotopes by multi-collector, high resolution mass spectrometry have the potential to revolutionise applications in the cosmo-geo-sciences. The Helix-MC Plus noble gas mass spectrometer installed at the Australian National University (ANU) is equipped with unique high mass resolution collectors [mass resolution (MR): ~1,800 and mass resolving power (MRP): ~8,000], including fixed axial (Ax), adjustable high mass (H2) and adjustable low mass (L2) detectors. The high mass resolution of the L2, Ax and H2 collectors permits complete separation of 20Ne (measured on L2 detector) from doubly charged interfering 40Ar (required MR of 1,777), 1H19F (MR = 1450), 1H218O (MR = 894) and partial separation of the 21Ne peak (on Ax detector) from interfering 20Ne1H (MR = 3,271), and 22Ne (on H2 detector) from interfering doubly charged CO2 (MR = 6,231). Because of the high MRP of ~8,000, 21Ne can be measured, essentially without interference from 20Ne1H, by setting the magnet position on a 20Ne1H interference-free position. This capability provides an important opportunity to re-evaluate the 21Ne abundance in the atmosphere. Our analyses demonstrate that 20Ne1H contributes ~4% to atmospheric 21Ne measurements, with the corresponding production ratio of 20Ne1H to 20Ne being ~1E-4. We calculate a new atmospheric 21Ne/20Ne ratio of 0.00287 relative to an atmospheric 22Ne/20Ne ratio of 0.102; this new value is distinctly lower than the current IUPAC recommended 21Ne/20Ne value of 0.00298. There are several significant implications ensuing from the newly determined atmospheric 21Ne abundance. For example, in the area of Earth sciences the most critical issue relates to cosmogenic 21Ne surface exposure ages, which involve the calculation of 21Ne concentrations from excess 21Ne, relative to the atmospheric 21Ne/20Ne ratio. For young samples, where cosmogenic 21Ne contents are small and the 21Ne/20Ne ratio is close to the atmospheric value, the revised value could increase cosmogenic 21Ne ages by ~30%.