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Direct Injection Liquid Chromatography High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry for Determination of Primary and Secondary Terrestrial and Marine Biomarkers in Ice Cores

King, Amy C. F., Giorio, Chiara, Wolff, Eric, Thomas, Elizabeth, Roverso, Marco, Schwikowski, Margit, Tapparo, Andrea, Bogialli, Sara, Kalberer, Markus
Analytical chemistry 2019 v.91 no.8 pp. 5051-5057
aerosols, biomarkers, climate change, detection limit, glaciers, high performance liquid chromatography, ice, mass spectrometry, mountains, organic compounds, paleoecology, Polar Regions
Many atmospheric organic compounds are long-lived enough to be transported from their sources to polar regions and high mountain environments where they can be trapped in ice archives. While inorganic components in ice archives have been studied extensively to identify past climate changes, organic compounds have rarely been used to assess paleo-environmental changes, mainly due to the lack of suitable analytical methods. This study presents a new method of direct injection high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS) analysis, without the need of preconcentrating the melted ice, for the determination of a series of novel biomarkers in ice core samples indicative of primary and secondary terrestrial and marine organic aerosol sources. Eliminating a preconcentration step reduces contamination potential and decreases the required sample volume thus allowing a higher time resolution in the archives. The method is characterized by limits of detection (LODs) in the range of 0.01–15 ppb, depending on the analyte, and accuracy evaluated through an interlaboratory comparison. We find that many components in secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) are clearly detectable at concentrations comparable to those previously observed in replicate preconcentrated ice samples from the Belukha glacier, Russian Altai Mountains. Some compounds with low recoveries in the preconcentration steps are now detectable in samples with this new direct injection method significantly increasing the range of environmental processes and sources that become accessible for paleo-climate studies.