Sodium hexametaphosphate, Na6(PO3)6, is often used as a dispersant in wet grain size separation procedures to obtain the clay-sized (<0.002 mm) fraction of till and soil samples. However, the complexing properties of this reagent can lead to a loss of elements through chemical leaching during the separation process. This work examines potential losses of Cr, Zn, Fe, Mn, Ni, Sb, and Hg from glacial sediment (till) to dispersant solution. Compared to dissolution by conventional aqua regia digestion, these losses are insignificant at <0.3%. However, if the elements in a loosely bound form are under study using selective or sequential leaches, then the losses can be viewed as substantial. Sodium hexametaphosphate solution, used as dispersant at a strength of 0.5%, was found to dissolve as much as 68% of the Hg in a bulk till sample (<4 mm) that would be brought into solution by a 1 M sodium acetate extractant at pH 5, designed to dissolve the adsorbed/exchangeable/carbonate phase of a geological sample. Up to 10% of the Hg and 7% of the Cr leached from the clay-sized fraction by 1 M NaOAc could have been lost to the Na6(PO3)6 dispersant during the clay-sized separation. Consequently, the concentrations of labile or weakly bound forms of elements reported in a sequential extraction scheme could be reduced because of a loss to the Na6(PO3)6 dispersant.
- © 2001 AAG/The Geological Society of London