Spatially resolved δ13C analysis using laser ablation isotope ratio mass spectrometry

Monday, 15 December 2014: 1:55 PM
James Moran1, Krystin M Riha1, Megan K Nims1, Timothy J Linley1, Nancy J Hess1 and Peter S Nico2, (1)Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States, (2)Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, United States
Inherent geochemical, organic matter, and microbial heterogeneity over small spatial scales can complicate studies of carbon dynamics through soils. Stable isotope analysis has a strong history of helping track substrate turnover, delineate rhizosphere activity zones, and identifying transitions in vegetation cover, but most traditional isotope approaches are limited in spatial resolution by a combination of physical separation techniques (manual dissection) and IRMS instrument sensitivity. We coupled laser ablation sampling with isotope measurement via IRMS to enable spatially resolved analysis over solid surfaces. Once a targeted sample region is ablated the resulting particulates are entrained in a helium carrier gas and passed through a combustion reactor where carbon is converted to CO2. Cyrotrapping of the resulting CO2 enables a reduction in carrier gas flow which improves overall measurement sensitivity versus traditional, high flow sample introduction. Currently we are performing sample analysis at 50 µm resolution, require 65 ng C per analysis, and achieve measurement precision consistent with other continuous flow techniques.

We will discuss applications of the laser ablation IRMS (LA-IRMS) system to microbial communities and fish ecology studies to demonstrate the merits of this technique and how similar analytical approaches can be transitioned to soil systems. Preliminary efforts at analyzing soil samples will be used to highlight strengths and limitations of the LA-IRMS approach, paying particular attention to sample preparation requirements, spatial resolution, sample analysis time, and the types of questions most conducive to analysis via LA-IRMS.