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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Characterisation of dissolved organic compounds in hydrothermal fluids by stir bar sorptive extraction - gas chomatography - mass spectrometry. Case study: the Rainbow field (36°N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge)

Cecile Konn12*, Jean-Luc Charlou1, Jean-Pierre Donval1 and Nils G Holm2

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratoire Géochimie Métallogénie, UR Géosciences Marines, Ifremer, Ctr Brest, B.P.70, 29280 Plouzané, France

2 Department of Geological Sciences, Geochemistry section, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden

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Geochemical Transactions 2012, 13:8  doi:10.1186/1467-4866-13-8

Published: 7 November 2012


The analysis of the dissolved organic fraction of hydrothermal fluids has been considered a real challenge due to sampling difficulties, complexity of the matrix, numerous interferences and the assumed ppb concentration levels. The present study shows, in a qualitative approach, that Stir Bar Sorptive Extraction (SBSE) followed by Thermal Desorption – Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) is suitable for extraction of small sample volumes and detection of a wide range of volatile and semivolatile organic compounds dissolved in hydrothermal fluids. In a case study, the technique was successfully applied to fluids from the Rainbow ultramafic-hosted hydrothermal field located at 36°14’N on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR). We show that n-alkanes, mono- and poly- aromatic hydrocarbons as well as fatty acids can be easily identified and their retention times determined. Our results demonstrate the excellent repeatability of the method as well as the possibility of storing stir bars for at least three years without significant changes in the composition of the recovered organic matter. A preliminary comparative investigation of the organic composition of the Rainbow fluids showed the great potential of the method to be used for assessing intrafield variations and carrying out time series studies. All together our results demonstrate that SBSE-TD-GC-MS analyses of hydrothermal fluids will make important contributions to the understanding of geochemical processes, geomicrobiological interactions and formation of mineral deposits.

Sample preparation; Extraction; Organic compounds; Hydrothermal fluids; Ultramafic rocks

Graphical abstract