Separation of Copper, Iron, and Zinc from Complex Aqueous Solutions for Isotopic Measurement


The measurement of Cu, Fe, and Zn isotopes in natural samples may provide valuable information about biogeochemical processes in the environment. However, the widespread application of stable Cu, Fe, and Zn isotope chemistry to natural water systems remains limited by our ability to efficiently separate these trace elements from the greater concentrations of matrix elements. In this study, we present a new method for the isolation of Cu, Fe, and Zn from complex aqueous solutions using a single anion-exchange column with hydrochloric acid media. Using this method we are able to quantitatively separate Cu, Fe, and Zn from each other and from matrix elements in a single column elution. Elution of the elements of interest, as well as all other elements, through the anion-exchange column is a function of the speciation of each element in the various concentrations of HCl. We highlight the column chemistry by comparing our observations with published studies that have investigated the speciation of Cu, Fe, and Zn in chloride solutions.
The functionality of the column procedure was tested by measuring Cu, Fe, and Zn isotopes in a variety of stream water samples impacted by acid mine drainage. The accuracy and precision of Zn isotopic measurements was tested by doping Zn-free stream water with the Zn isotopic standard. The reproducibility of the entire column separation process and the overall precision of the isotopic measurements were also evaluated. The isotopic results demonstrate that the Cu, Fe, and Zn column separates from the tested stream waters are of sufficient purity to be analyzed directly using a multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS), and that the measurements are fully-reproducible, accurate, and precise. Although limited in scope, these isotopic measurements reveal significant variations in δ65Cu (- 1.41 to + 0.30‰), δ56Fe (- 0.56 to + 0.34‰), and δ66Zn (0.31 to 0.49‰) among samples collected from different abandoned mines within a single watershed. Hence, Cu, Fe, and Zn isotopic measurements may be a powerful tool for fingerprinting specific metal sources and/or examining biogeochemical reactions within fresh water systems.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

acid mine drainage; aqueous solution; biogeochemistry; copper; ion exchange; iron; separation; zinc; Anion-exchange; Cu; Fe; Isotopes; Zn

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Article - Journal

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© 2007 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Aug 2007