Compound-specific radiocarbon analysis of atmospheric methane: a new preconcentration and purification setup

Espic, Christophe; Liechti, Michael; Battaglia, Michael; Paul, D; Röckmann, T; Szidat, Sönke (2019). Compound-specific radiocarbon analysis of atmospheric methane: a new preconcentration and purification setup. Radiocarbon, 61(5), pp. 1461-1476. Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona 10.1017/RDC.2019.76

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Methane contributes substantially to global warming as the second most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas. Radiocarbon (14C) measurements of atmospheric methane can be used as a source apportionment tool, as they allow distinction between thermogenic and biogenic methane sources. However, these measurements remain scarce due to labor-intensive methods required. A new setup for the preparation of atmospheric methane samples for radiocarbon analysis is presented. The system combines a methane preconcentration line with a preparative gas chromatography technique to isolate pure methane samples for a compound-specific radiocarbon analysis. In order to minimize sample preparation time, we designed a simplified preconcentration line for the extraction of methane from 50 L atmospheric air, which corresponds to 50 μg C as required for a reliable 14C analysis of methane-derived CO2 gas measurement with accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). The system guarantees a quantitative extraction of methane from atmospheric air samples for 14C analysis, with a good repeatability and a low processing blank. The setup was originally designed for the measurement of samples with low methane concentrations, but it can also be adapted to apportion sources from environmental compartments with high methane levels such as freshwaters or wetlands.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

Graduate School:

Graduate School of Climate Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Espic, Christophe, Liechti, Michael, Battaglia, Michael, Szidat, Sönke


500 Science > 540 Chemistry




Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona


[UNSPECIFIED] Dr. Alfred Bretscher Scholarship




Sönke Szidat

Date Deposited:

31 Jul 2019 15:07

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:29

Publisher DOI:





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