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Direct Determination of Tellurium in Geological Samples by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry Using Ethanol as a Matrix Modifier

Volume 60, Number 7 (July 2006) Page 781-785

Hu, Zhaochu; Gao, Shan; Günther, Detlef; Hu, Shenghong; Liu, Xiaoming; Yuan, Honglin


Direct determination of tellurium in geological samples by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is often complicated by its low abundance, poor analytical sensitivity, and the presence of xenon interferences. Therefore, a simplified and rapid method for direct determination of nanogram levels of tellurium in geological samples using ICP-MS by reduction of interferences and improvement of sensitivity was developed. It is impossible to resolve126Te and 128 Te from isotope interferences of Xe even by currently available high-resolution magnetic mass spectrometry due to the extremely small mass difference (0.001-0.002 amu). However, the addition of 4% ethanol was found to suppress the interferences of Xe by a factor of 6 and increases the sensitivity of Te determination in ICP-MS by a factor of 3 relative to the values obtained in conventional 3% (v/v) HNO3 solution at the corresponding optimum operating conditions, respectively. The detection limits of 126Te and 128Te were reduced by a factor of 7.2 and 8.8, respectively, and the limit of quantitation (LOQ) for 126Te in the presence of 4% ethanol was 1.5 ng g−1 (the LOQ is expressed as the concentration in the solid samples, thereby taking into account the dilution factor of 1000). The agreement between the determined Te concentration values (r = 0.998) in various geological samples (n = 140) by using isotopes of 126Te and 128Te indicates negligible contributions of polyatomic interferences produced by the addition of ethanol at these m/z. The proposed method was successfully applied to the direct determination of nanogram levels of Te in a series of international geological reference materials.