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Preliminary assessment of stable nitrogen and oxygen isotopic composition of USGS51 and USGS52 nitrous oxide reference gases and perspectives on calibration needs

January 1, 2019


Despite a long history and growing interest in isotopic analyses of N2O, there is a lack of isotopically characterized N2O isotopic reference materials (standards) to enable normalization and reporting of isotope‐delta values. Here we report the isotopic characterization of two pure N2O gas reference materials, USGS51 and USGS52, which are now available for laboratory calibration (


A total of 400 sealed borosilicate glass tubes of each N2O reference gas were prepared from a single gas filling of a high vacuum line. We demonstrated isotopic homogeneity via dual‐inlet isotope‐ratio mass spectrometry. Isotopic analyses of these reference materials were obtained from eight laboratories to evaluate interlaboratory variation and provide preliminary isotopic characterization of their δ15N, δ18O, δ15Nα, δ15Nβ and site preference (SP) values.


The isotopic homogeneity of both USGS51 and USGS52 was demonstrated by one‐sigma standard deviations associated with the determinations of their δ15N, δ18O, δ15Nα, δ15Nβand SP values of 0.12 mUr or better. The one‐sigma standard deviations of SPmeasurements of USGS51 and USGS52 reported by eight laboratories participating in the interlaboratory comparison were 1.27 and 1.78 mUr, respectively.


The agreement of isotope‐delta values obtained in the interlaboratory comparison was not sufficient to provide reliable accurate isotope measurement values for USGS51 and USGS52. We propose that provisional values for the isotopic composition of USGS51 and USGS52 determined at the Tokyo Institute of Technology can be adopted for normalizing and reporting sample data until further refinements are achieved through additional calibration efforts.