Continuous Measurements of Dissolved Ne, Ar, Kr, and Xe Ratios with a Field-Deployable Gas Equilibration Mass Spectrometer. Academic Article uri icon


  • Noble gases dissolved in natural waters are useful tracers for quantifying physical processes. Here, we describe a field-deployable gas equilibration mass spectrometer (GEMS) that provides continuous, real-time measurements of Ne, Ar, Kr, and Xe mole ratios in natural waters. Gas is equilibrated with a membrane contactor cartridge and measured with a quadrupole mass spectrometer, after in-line purification with reactive metal alloy getters. We use an electron energy of 35 V for Ne to eliminate isobaric interferences, and a higher electron energy for the other gases to improve sensitivity. The precision is 0.7% or better and 1.0% or better for all mole ratios when the instrument is installed in a temperature-controlled environment and a variable-temperature environment, respectively. In the lab, the accuracy is 0.9% or better for all gas ratios using air as the only calibration standard. In the field (and/or at greater levels of disequilbrium), the accuracy is 0.7% or better for Ne/Kr, Ne/Ar, and Ar/Kr, and 2.5% or better for Ne/Xe, Ar/Xe, and Kr/Xe using air as the only calibration standard. The field accuracy improves to 0.6% or better for Ne/Xe, Ar/Xe, and Kr/Xe when the data is calibrated using discrete water samples run on a laboratory-based mass spectrometer. The e-folding response time is 90-410 s. This instrument enables the collection of a large number of continuous, high-precision and accuracy noble gas measurements at substantially reduced cost and labor compared to traditional methods.

publication date

  • March 15, 2016