Inorganics in Organics: Quantification of Organic Phosphorus and Sulfur and Trace Element Speciation in Natural Organic Matter Using HPLC-ICPMS

Oliver J. Lechtenfeld, Boris P. Koch, Walter Geibert, Kai-Uwe Ludwichowski, Gerhard Kattner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A method is presented for the chemical characterization of natural organic matter (NOM). We combined reversed-phase chromatographic separation of NOM with high resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. A desolvation technique was used to remove organic solvent derived from the preceding chromatographic separation. We applied our method to solid-phase extracted marine dissolved organic matter samples from South Atlantic and Antarctic surface waters. The method provided a direct and quantitative determination of dissolved organic phosphorus and sulfur in fractions of differing polarity and also allowed simultaneous speciation studies of trace elements. Dissolved organic carbon/phosphorus and carbon/sulfur ratios for the different chromatographic fractions of our two samples ranged between 341-3025 for C/P and 11-1225 for C/S. Differences in elemental distribution between the fractions were attributed to different biochemical environments of the samples. Sulfur was exclusively found in one hydrophilic fraction, while uranium showed a strong affinity to the hydrophobic fractions. Our method was designed to be easily adapted to other separation techniques. The elemental information will deliver valuable information for ultrahigh resolution molecular analyses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8968-8974
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011

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