Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-jwnkl Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-14T04:59:02.107Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Rapid 14C Analysis of Dissolved Organic Carbon in Non-Saline Waters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2016

Susan Q Lang*
Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
Cameron P McIntyre
Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, ETH Zürich, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland Current address: Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, Glasgow, Scotland
Stefano M Bernasconi
Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
Gretchen L Früh-Green
Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
Britta M Voss
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Department of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Timothy I Eglinton
Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
Lukas Wacker
Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, ETH Zürich, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland
*Corresponding author. Email:


The radiocarbon content of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in rivers, lakes, and other non-saline waters can provide valuable information on carbon cycling dynamics in the environment. DOC is typically prepared for 14C analysis by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) either by ultraviolet (UV) oxidation or by freeze-drying and sealed tube combustion. We present here a new method for the rapid analysis of 14C of DOC using wet chemical oxidation (WCO) and automated headspace sampling of CO2. The approach is an adaption of recently developed methods using aqueous persulfate oxidant to determine the δ13C of DOC in non-saline water samples and the 14C content of volatile organic acids. One advantage of the current method over UV oxidation is higher throughput: 22 samples and 10 processing standards can be prepared in one day and analyzed in a second day, allowing a full suite of 14C processing standards and blanks to be run in conjunction with samples. A second advantage is that there is less potential for cross-contamination between samples.

Research Article
© 2016 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Armstrong, FAJ, Williams, PM, Strickland, JDH. 1966. Photo-oxidation of organic matter in sea water by ultra-violet radiation, analytical and other applications. Nature 211(5048):481483.Google Scholar
Barcelona, MJ. 1980. Dissolved organic carbon and volatile fatty-acids in marine sediment pore waters. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 44(12):19771984.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bauer, JE, Druffel, ERM, Williams, PM, Wolast, DM, Griffin, S. 1998. Temporal variability in dissolved organic carbon and radiocarbon in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research 103(C2):28672881.Google Scholar
Beaupré, SR, Druffel, ERM, Griffin, S. 2007. A low-blank photochemical extraction system for concentration and isotopic analyses of marine dissolved organic carbon. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 5(6):174184.Google Scholar
Benner, R, Strom, M. 1993. A critical evaluation of the analytical blank associated with DOC measurements by high temperature catalytic oxidation. Marine Chemistry 41(1–3):153160.Google Scholar
Druffel, ERM, Williams, PM, Robertson, K, Griffin, S, Jull, AJT, Donahue, DJ, Toolin, LJ, Linick, TW. 1989. Radiocarbon in dissolved organic and inorganic carbon from the central North Pacific. Radiocarbon 31(3):523532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fahrni, SM, Wacker, L, Synal, H-A, Szidat, S. 2013. Improving a gas ion source for 14C AMS. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 294:320327.Google Scholar
Lang, SQ, Butterfield, DA, Schulte, M, Kelley, DS, Lilley, MD. 2010. Elevated concentrations of formate, acetate and dissolved organic carbon found at the Lost City hydrothermal field. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 74(3):941952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lang, SQ, Bernasconi, SM, Früh-Green, GL. 2012. Stable isotope analysis of organic carbon in small (μg) samples and dissolved organic matter using a GasBench preparation device. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 26(1):916.Google Scholar
Lang, SQ, Früh-Green, GL, Bernasconi, SM, Wacker, L. 2013. Isotopic (δ13C, Δ14C) analysis of organic acids in seawater using wet chemical oxidation. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 11(4):161175.Google Scholar
Leonard, A, Castle, S, Burr, GS, Lange, T, Thomas, J. 2013. A wet oxidation method for AMS radiocarbon analysis of dissolved organic carbon in water. Radiocarbon 55(2–3):545552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mann, PJ, Eglinton, TI, McIntyre, CP, Zimov, N, Davydova, A, Vonk, JE, Holmes, RM, Spencer, RGM. 2015. Utilization of ancient permafrost carbon in headwaters of Arctic fluvial networks. Nature Communications 6:7856.Google Scholar
McIntyre, C, Lechleitner, F, Lang, S, Wacker, L, Fahrni, S, Eglinton, T. 2014. 14C laboratory contamination testing: rapid screening using a wet chemical oxidation method. ETH-Zurich 2014 Annual Report. Scholar
Mollenhauer, G, Rethemeyer, J. 2009. Compound-specific radiocarbon analysis: analytical challenges and applications. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science 5:012006012015.Google Scholar
Molnár, M, Hajdas, I, Janovics, R, Rinyu, L, Synal, H-A, Veres, M, Wacker, L. 2013. C-14 analysis of groundwater down to the millilitre level. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 294:573576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neff, JC, Finlay, JC, Zimov, SA, Davydov, SP, Carrasco, JJ, Schuur, EAG, Davydova, AI. 2006. Seasonal changes in the age and structure of dissolved organic carbon in Siberian rivers and streams. Geophysical Research Letters 33(23):L23401.Google Scholar
Osburn, CL, St-Jean, G. 2007. The use of wet chemical oxidation with high-amplification isotope ratio mass spectrometry (WCO-IRMS) to measure stable isotope values of dissolved organic carbon in seawater. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 5(10):296308.Google Scholar
Palmer, SM, Hope, D, Billett, MF, Dawson, JJC, Bryant, CL. 2001. Sources of organic and inorganic carbon in a headwater stream: evidence from carbon isotope studies. Biogeochemistry 52(3):321338.Google Scholar
Pearson, A, McNichol, AP, Schneider, RJ, von Reden, KF. 1998. Microscale AMS 14C measurement at NOSAMS. Radiocarbon 40(1):6175.Google Scholar
Reimer, PJ, Brown, TA, Reimer, RW. 2004. Discussion: reporting and calibration of post-bomb 14C data. Radiocarbon 46(3):12991304.Google Scholar
Ruff, M, Wacker, L, Gäggeler, HW, Suter, M, Synal, H-A, Szidat, S. 2007. A gas ion source for radiocarbon measurements at 200 kV. Radiocarbon 49(2):307314.Google Scholar
Santos, GM, Southon, JR, Griffin, S, Beaupre, SR, Druffel, ERM. 2007. Ultra small-mass AMS 14C sample preparation and analyses at KCCAMS/UCI Facility. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 259(1):293302.Google Scholar
Shah, SR, Pearson, A. 2007. Ultra-microscale (5–25 µg C) analysis of individual lipids by 14C AMS: assessment and correction for sample processing blanks. Radiocarbon 49(1):6982.Google Scholar
Sharp, JH, Benner, R, Bennett, L, Carlson, CA, Fitzwater, SE, Peltzer, ET, Tupas, LM. 1995. Analyses of dissolved organic carbon in seawater: the JGOFS EqPac methods comparison. Marine Chemistry 48(2):91108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spencer, RGM, Mann, PJ, Dittmar, T, Eglinton, TI, McIntyre, C, Holmes, RM, Zimov, N, Stubbins, A. 2015. Detecting the signature of permafrost thaw in Arctic rivers. Geophysical Research Letters 42(8):28302835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Synal, HA, Stocker, M, Suter, M. 2007. MICADAS: a new compact radiocarbon AMS system. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 259:713.Google Scholar
Voss, BM, Peucker-Ehrenbrink, B, Eglinton, TI, Spencer, RGM, Bulygina, E, Galy, V, Lamborg, CH, Ganguli, PM, Montluçon, DB, Marsh, S, Gillies, SL, Fanslau, J, Epp, A, Luymes, R. 2015. Seasonal hydrology drives rapid shifts in the flux and composition of dissolved and particulate organic carbon and major and trace ions in the Fraser River, Canada. Biogeosciences 12:55975618.Google Scholar
Wacker, L, Christl, M, Synal, H-A. 2010. Bats: a new tool for AMS data reduction. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 268(7–8):976979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wacker, L, Fahrni, SM, Hajdas, I, Molnár, M, Synal, H-A, Szidat, S, Zhang, YL. 2013. A versatile gas interface for routine radiocarbon analysis with a gas ion source. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 294:315319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Williams, PM. 1968. Stable carbon isotopes in the dissolved organic matter of the sea. Nature 219(5150):152154.Google Scholar
Ziolkowski, L, Druffel, ERM. 2009. Quantification of extraneous carbon during compound specific radiocarbon analysis of black carbon. Analytical Chemistry 81(24):10,15661.Google Scholar