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Accurate Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca, and Ba/Ca ratio measurements in carbonates by SIMS and NanoSIMS and an assessment of heterogeneity in common calcium carbonate standards

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  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Ecology
  • Geography


As archives of past climate variability, the micron and sub-micron scales of element:calcium (Me/Ca) variability in both biogenic and inorganic carbonates contain important geochemical information. Ideally working at smaller and smaller scales leads to higher temporal resolution of past changes, but more often it has revealed the strong overprint of other processes on the climate signal. Therefore, the role of SIMS and NanoSIMS techniques in studying paleoenvironmental proxies continues to increase. We evaluate the accuracy and precision of the CAMECA ims 7F-GEO and NanoSIMS-50L ion probes for measurements of Sr/Ca, Mg/Ca, and Ba/Ca ratios in carbonate minerals. Nine carbonate reference materials were examined for their ^(88)Sr/^(42)Ca, ^(24)Mg/^(42)Ca, and ^(138)Ba/^(42)Ca ratios using a primary O^− beam with spot sizes of 20–40 μm (SIMS) and 0.8–2 μm (NanoSIMS). To assess accuracy, seven of these standards were analyzed for Sr/Ca and Mg/Ca with ID-ICP-MS. Variability in the elemental ratios arising from drift and changes in the tuning of the ims 7F-GEO over a nine month period is smaller than the chemical heterogeneity of the most frequently analyzed standards (OKA and Blue-CC). Across a whole crystal, Blue-CC is more homogeneous (1σ of 2.39% and 1.60% for Sr/Ca and Mg/Ca respectively) than OKA, but in the bulk matrix of OKA there is even less variability (1σ of 0.85% and 0.83% respectively). We find that carbonate samples can be accurately normalized to carbonate standards with significantly different absolute Me/Ca ratios. NanoSIMS intensity ratios follow counting statistics better than ± 1% (2σ) at any one spot, but conversion to Me/Ca ratios increases the uncertainty. Two factors give rise to this limitation. First, the spatial heterogeneity of nominally homogeneous standards can lead to accuracy offsets that are as large as the ranges quoted above. Second, the NanoSIMS generates higher instrumental mass fractionation relative to SIMS. The combination of three different analytical techniques demonstrates that Blue-CC and homogeneous calcite zones in OKA are promising reference materials for precise analyses. Accuracy is crucially dependent on making independent measurements on exactly the same crystal of standard used in the SIMS and NanoSIMS machines.

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