Accuracy of the diffusive gradients in thin-films technique: Diffusive boundary layer and effective sampling area considerations

Department of Environmental Science, Lancaster Environment Center, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1-4YQ, United Kingdom.
Analytical Chemistry (Impact Factor: 5.83). 06/2006; 78(11):3780-7. DOI: 10.1021/ac060139d
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT When using the diffusive gradients in thin-films (DGT) technique in well-stirred solutions, the diffusive boundary layer has generally been ignored on the assumption that it is negligibly thin compared to the total thickness of delta g, i.e., the sum of the thickness of the prefilter and diffusive gel. Deployment of devices with different diffusive layer thicknesses showed that the thickness of the DBL was approximately 0.23 mm in moderate to well-stirred solutions, but substantially thicker in poorly or unstirred solutions. Measurement of the distribution of Cd in the DGT resin gel at high spatial resolution (100 microm) using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry showed that the effective sampling window had a larger diameter (2.20 cm) than the geometric diameter of the exposure window (2.00 cm). Lateral diffusion in the gel, which had previously been neglected, therefore increased the effective surface area of the device by approximately 20%. The concentrations measured by DGT agreed well with the known concentrations in standard solutions for all diffusion layer thicknesses, when the effective area and the appropriate diffusive boundary layer (DBL) were used. The extent of the error associated with neglecting the DBL and using the geometric window area depends on the gel layer thickness and the true thickness of the DBL, as determined by the deployment geometry and flow regime. When DGT measurements were made in well-stirred solutions using a 0.80-mm diffusive gel, the effect of neglecting the DBL and using the inappropriate geometric area offset each other, with the error being <+/-10%. For precise measurements, and especially work involving speciation or kinetic measurements, where DGT devices with different diffusive gel layer thicknesses are deployed, it is necessary to use the effective area and the appropriate DBL thickness in the full DGT equation, which allows for the use of layer-specific diffusion coefficients.

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