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Development of a Laser Spectroscopy System for Analysis of 17Oexcess on Ice Cores

This award supports a two-year project to develop a method for rapid and precise measurements of the difference in 18O/16O and 17O/16O isotope ratios in water, referred to as the 17O-excess. Measurement of 17O-excess is a recent innovation in geochemistry, complementing traditional measurements of the ratios of hydrogen (D/H) and oxygen (18O/16O). Conventional measurements of 17O/16O are limited in number because of the time-consuming and laborious nature of the analyses, which involves the conversion of water to oxygen via fluorination, followed by high-precision mass spectrometry. This project will use a novel cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) system developed by a joint effort of the University of Washington and Picarro, Inc. (Santa Clara, CA), along with the Centre for Ice and Climate (Neils Bohr Institute, Copenhagen). The primary intellectual merit of the research is the improvement of the CRDS method for measurements of 17Oexcess of discrete samples of water, to obtain precision and accuracy competitive with conventional methods using mass spectrometry. This will be achieved by quantification of the effects of water vapor concentration variability and instrument memory, precise calibration of the instrument against standard waters, and improvements to the spectroscopic analyses. The CRDS system will also be coupled to continuous-flow systems for ice core analysis, in collaboration with the University of Colorado, Boulder. The goal is to have an operational system available for ice core processing associated with the next major U.S.-led ice core project at South Pole, in 2015-2017. The broader impacts of the research include the ability to measure 17O-excess in ambient atmospheric water vapor, which can be used to improve understanding of convection, moisture transport, and condensation. The instrument development work proposed here is relevant to research supported by several NSF-GEO programs, including Hydrology, Climate and Large Scale Dynamics, Paleoclimate, Atmosphere Chemistry, and both the Arctic and Antarctic Programs. This proposal will support a postdoctoral researcher.

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