Separation of Hf and Lu for high-precision isotope analysis of rock samples by magnetic sector-multiple collector ICP-MS
Potential applications of the Lu-Hf isotope system have long been impeded by the analytical difficulties of obtaining data on a wide variety of geological materials. Many of these limitations will now be eliminated because Hf isotopes can be readily measured with high precision and accuracy on small and/or Hf-poor samples using the newly developed magnetic sector-multiple collector ICP-MS, also known as MC-ICP-MS or the `Plasma 54'. We present here a new method to separate and determine isotopic compositions of both Hf and Lu from various types of geological materials using MC-ICP-MS. The chemical separation of Hf and Lu has been designed to take advantage of the characteristics of this unique instrument. The separation of Hf can be achieved with a straightforward two-step ion-exchange column chemistry, which has a high efficiency (better than 85% recovery) and low blanks (typical total blanks less than 150 pg for the largest samples of 1 g bulk rock). The isolation of Lu is achieved with a single-stage ion-exchange column procedure with near 100% yields and blanks below 20 pg. Hf isotopic compositions can be routinely measured on 50 ng Hf with an internal precision better than 20 ppm in less than 15 min and with an external precision better than 40 ppm. Our value for the 176Hf/177Hf ratio of the JMC 475 Hf standard currently is 0.282163+/-9 (2s). The Lu isotopic ratio is measured rapidly and precisely without isolating Lu from the bulk of Yb, and a mass fractionation correction increases the accuracy of the results compared with TIMS data. Our current reproducibility of the Lu/Hf ratio is 1%. Selected Lu-Hf isotope analyses of some modern and ancient geological samples validate the technique we have described here and illustrate the new opportunities for Lu-Hf isotope geochemistry that have opened up with the advent of magnetic-sector ICP mass spectrometry.