CO2 stable carbon isotopes are very attractive in environmental research to investigate both natural and anthropogenic carbon sources. Laser-based CO2 carbon isotope analysis provides continuous measurement at high temporal resolution and is a promising alternative to isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS). We performed a thorough assessment of a commercially available CO2 Carbon Isotope Analyser (CCIA DLT-100, Los Gatos Research) that allows in situ measurement of C-13 in CO2. Using a set of reference gases of known CO2 concentration and carbon isotopic composition, we evaluated the precision, long-term stability, temperature sensitivity and concentration dependence of the analyser. Despite good precision calculated from Allan variance (5.0 ppm for CO2 concentration, and 0.05 aEuro degrees for C-13 at 60 s averaging), real performances are altered by two main sources of error: temperature sensitivity and dependence of C-13 on CO2 concentration. Data processing is required to correct for these errors. Following application of these corrections, we achieve an accuracy of 8.7 ppm for CO2 concentration and 1.3 aEuro degrees for C-13, which is worse compared to mass spectrometry performance, but still allowing field applications. With this portable analyser we measured CO2 flux degassed from rock in an underground tunnel. The obtained carbon isotopic composition agrees with IRMS measurement, and can be used to identify the carbon source.
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