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Abstract

Clumped-isotope geochemistry deals with the state of ordering of rare isotopes in molecules, in particular with their tendency to form bonds with other rare isotopes rather than with the most abundant ones. Among its possible applications, carbonate clumped-isotope thermometry is the one that has gained most attention because of the wide potential of applications in many disciplines of earth sciences. Clumped-isotope thermometry allows reconstructing the temperature of formation of carbonate minerals without knowing the isotopic composition of the water from which they were formed. This feature enables new approaches in paleothermometry. The currently published method is, however, limited by sample weight requirements of 10–15 mg and because measurements are performed manually. In this paper we present a new method using an automated sample preparation device coupled to an isotope ratio mass spectrometer. The method is based on the repeated analysis (n = 6–8) of 200 µg aliquots of sample material and completely automated measurements. In addition, we propose to use precisely calibrated carbonates spanning a wide range in Δ47 instead of heated gases to correct for isotope effects caused by the source of the mass spectrometer, following the principle of equal treatment of the samples and standards. We present data for international standards (NBS 19 and LSVEC) and different carbonates formed at temperatures exceeding 600°C to show that precisions in the range of 10 to 15 ppm (1 SE) can be reached for repeated analyses of a single sample. Finally, we discuss and validate the correction procedure based on high-temperature carbonates instead of heated gases. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.