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Trace metal measurements in low ionic strength solutions by diffusive gradients in thin-films (DGT).

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/09/2005
<mark>Journal</mark>Analytical Chemistry
Issue number17
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)5440-5456
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In view of conflicting reports regarding the performance of DGT in low ionic strength solutions (I < 1 mM), further investigations have been carried out. Minimal washing of the diffusive gel and deployment in 1.0 and 10 mM NaNO3 solutions containing Cu and Cd gave the theoretical response of 1 for [C]DGT/[C]SOLN, where [C]DGT is the concentration of metal measured by DGT and [C]SOLN is the concentration of metal measured directly in the solution by an appropriate analytical method. Erroneously high values for [C]DGT/[C]SOLN were obtained when these same gels were deployed at I = 0.1 mM, presumably due to a net negative charge on the gel, attributable to the presence of initiation products of polymerization. However, washing the diffusive gels completely, where the storage solution pH equaled that of deionized water, gave values of 0.5 for [C]DGT/[C]SOLN from deployments at I = 0.1 mM, consistent with the lower measured value of the diffusion coefficients at this ionic strength. These results can be explained by the presence of a net positive charge on the gel when it is exhaustively washed, which reduces the effective diffusion coefficient of metal ions by changing their concentration at the gel−solution interface (Donnan partitioning). Diffusive gel equilibration experiments showed the presence of low capacity sites capable of binding metals irrespective of ionic strength. This binding within the diffusive gel does not affect most DGT measurements, as short (4 h) deployments at concentrations of 10 ppb gave theoretical results. Incomplete washing of the resin−gel caused a 5−15% measurement error and a decrease in precision, even at ionic strengths of 10 mM. A high level of accuracy and precision (typically <5%) was maintained during all aspects of this work, even at ionic strengths of 0.1 mM, in contrast to previous results. This is attributable to three factors: (1) exhaustive washing and conditioning protocols, (2) improvements to the DGT sampling device, and (3) low and reproducible blanks due to ultraclean handling procedures. Provided effective diffusion coefficients measured at the same ionic strength are used, the established DGT theory is obeyed irrespective of ionic strength.