Author(s): Muccio Z, Jackson GP
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Abstract Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) is a specialized technique used to provide information about the geographic, chemical, and biological origins of substances. The ability to determine the source of an organic substance stems from the relative isotopic abundances of the elements which comprise the material. Because the isotope ratios of elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and nitrogen can become locally enriched or depleted through a variety of kinetic and thermodynamic factors, measurement of the isotope ratios can be used to differentiate between samples which otherwise share identical chemical compositions. Several sample introduction methods are now available for commercial isotope ratio mass spectrometers. Combustion is most commonly used for bulk isotopic analysis, whereas gas and liquid chromatography are predominately used for the real-time isotopic analysis of specific compounds within a mixture. Here, highlights of advances in instrumentation and applications within the last three years are provided to illustrate the impact of this rapidly growing area of research. Some prominent new applications include authenticating organic food produce, ascertaining whether or not African elephants are guilty of night-time raids on farmers' crops, and linking forensic drug and soil samples from a crime scene to a suspected point of origin. For the sake of brevity, we focus this Minireview on the isotope ratio measurements of lighter-elements common to organic sources; we do not cover the equally important field of inorganic isotope ratio mass spectrometry.
This article was published in Analyst
and referenced in Pharmaceutica Analytica Acta