Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Student Research Publications

Membrane inlet mass spectrometer for rapid high precision determine of nitrogen, oxygen and argon in environmental water samples




Kana, T. M., C. Darkangelo*, M. D. Hunt, J. B. Oldham*, G. E. Bennet, and J. C. Cornwell


Analytical Chemistry 66:4166-4170


A membrane inlet mass spectrometer was modified to perform rapid, high-precision measurements of dissolved N2, O2, and Ar in water. The instrument pumps water at <1 mL min-1 through semipermeable microbore silicone tubing positioned inside an inlet vacuum line of a quadrupole mass spectrometer. Precise pumping and temperature control of the water sample contribute to high signal stability and reproducibility. Dissolved gas concentrations are determined from intensities of the mass spectrometer signals in the multiple ion detection mode. Precision (coefficient of variation) is <0.5% for N2, O2, and Ar concentrations and <0.05% for N2/Ar and O2/Ar ratio data. Deviation from expected values was bem een 0.5 and 1.5% for air-equilibrated water of widely ranging temperature and salinity. Advantages of the instrument over existing methods include rapid throughput (similar to 20-30 samples h-1), lack of sample water preparation (e.g., no degassing step), small sample size (<10 mL), and high-precision measurement of both concentration and gas ratio data. A limitation of the present instrument is the difficulty in measuring water with significantly supersaturated gas concentrations. An example of the utility of the instrument is described for the measurement of denitrification in estuarine sediment.


Todd Kana, Ph.D.


Christina Darkangelo Wood, Long Island University, Southampton

The REU students are indicated with an asterisk (*).