Isotope geochemistry

Isotope Geochemistry

Isotope geochemistry

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Isotope geochemistry is an aspect of geology based upon study of the relative and absolute concentrations of the elements and their isotopes in the Earth. Variations in the abundance of these isotopes, typically measured with an isotope ratio mass spectrometer or an accelerator mass spectrometer, can reveal information about the age of a rock or the source of air or water. Isotope ratios can even shed light on chemical processes in the atmosphere. Broadly, the field of isotope geochemistry is divided into two branches: stable and radiogenic isotope geochemistry.

Stable isotope geochemistry

For most stable isotopes, the magnitude of fractionation from kinetic and equilibrium fractionation is very small; for this reason, enrichments are typically reported in "per mil" (‰, parts per thousand). These enrichments (δ) represent the ratio of heavy isotope to light isotope in the sample over the ratio of a standard. That is,
<math>delta ^C = Biggl( frac -1 Biggr) * 1000 ^!/!_</math>


Carbon has two stable isotopes, <sup>12</sup>C and <sup>13</sup>C, and one radioactive isotope, <sup>14</sup>C. Carbon isotope ratios are measured against Vienna Pee Dee Belemnite (VPDB). They have been used to track ocean circulation, among other things.

Carbon stable isotopes are fractionated primarily by...
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