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A membrane inlet mass spectrometry system for noble gases at natural abundances in gas and water samples


Correspondence to: A. Visser, 7000 East Avenue, Livermore, CA94550, USA.




Noble gases dissolved in groundwater can reveal paleotemperatures, recharge conditions, and precise travel times. The collection and analysis of noble gas samples are cumbersome, involving noble gas purification, cryogenic separation and static mass spectrometry. A quicker and more efficient sample analysis method is required for introduced tracer studies and laboratory experiments.


A Noble Gas Membrane Inlet Mass Spectrometry (NG-MIMS) system was developed to measure noble gases at natural abundances in gas and water samples. The NG-MIMS system consists of a membrane inlet, a dry-ice water trap, a carbon-dioxide trap, two getters, a gate valve, a turbomolecular pump and a quadrupole mass spectrometer equipped with an electron multiplier. Noble gases isotopes 4He, 22Ne, 38Ar, 84Kr and 132Xe are measured every 10 s.


The NG-MIMS system can reproduce measurements made on a traditional noble gas mass spectrometer system with precisions of 2%, 8%, 1%, 1% and 3% for He, Ne, Ar, Kr and Xe, respectively. Noble gas concentrations measured in an artificial recharge pond were used to monitor an introduced xenon tracer and to reconstruct temperature variations to within 2 °C. Additional experiments demonstrated the capability to measure noble gases in gas and in water samples, in real time.


The NG-MIMS system is capable of providing analyses sufficiently accurate and precise for introduced noble gas tracers at managed aquifer recharge facilities, groundwater fingerprinting based on excess air and noble gas recharge temperature, and field and laboratory studies investigating ebullition and diffusive exchange. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.