Determination of total dissolved nitrogen in seawater by isotope dilution gas chromatography mass spectrometry following digestion with persulfate and derivatization with aqueous triethyloxonium

Enea Pagliano*, Beatrice Campanella, Lisa Shi, Marie-Pier Thibault, Massimo Onor, S.J.H. Crum, Jeremy E. Melanson, Zoltán Mester

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this study, we propose a novel approach for the determination of total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) in seawater combining high-precision isotope dilution GC–MS with persulfate digestion. A 2 mL sample aliquot was digested with an alkaline solution of persulfate to convert nitrogen containing compounds to nitrate. Digested samples were spiked with 15NO3−internal standard and treated with aqueous tri-ethyloxonium to convert the analyte into volatile EtONO2. This derivative was readily separated from the matrix under gaseous form and could be sampled from the headspace before GC–MS analysis. The resulting chromatograms showed a stable flat baseline with EtONO2 as the only eluting peak (retention time 2.75 min on a DB 5.625 column). Such an approach provides specificity and obviates the shortcomings of current detection methods employed to analyze seawater samples after digestion with persulfate. In negative chemical ionization mode, the method reached a detection limit of 0.5 µmol/kg TDN (7 ng/gN) and could be applied to quantify seawater samples with 1–25 µmol/kg TDN. On the upper end of the range, quantitation could be repeated within 1%, whereas on a 6 µmol/kg TDN sample repeatability was 2.3% on eight measurements. The method was employed in two proficiency testing exercises providing results in agreement with consensus values. We investigated the impact of reagent blank and we implemented a blank-matching optimal design to account for such contribution. Finally, we performed a study on the yield of persulfate oxidation for organic and inorganic nitrogen compounds typically present in seawater. Whilst nitrite and ammonium are fully converted to nitrate, more complex organic molecules showed recoveries varying from 70% to 100%.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-199
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Chromatography. A, Including electrophoresis and other separation methods
Volume1569
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2018

Keywords

  • Total dissolved nitrogen, Seawater, Isotope dilution, Gas chromatography mass spectrometry, Persulfate, Triethyloxonium derivatization

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