Modern applications for a total sulfur reduction distillation method - what’s old is new again

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Arnold GL, Brunner B, Müller IA, Røy H. Modern applications for a total sulfur reduction distillation method - what's old is new again. Geochemical Transactions 2014 04/22;15(1):4.



The use of a boiling mixture of hydriodic acid, hypophosphorous acid, and hydrochloric acid to reduce any variety of sulfur compounds has been in use in various applications since the first appearance of this method in the literature in the 1920’s. In the realm of sulfur geochemistry, this method remains a useful, but under-utilized technique. Presented here is a detailed description of the distillation set-up and procedure, as well as an overview of potential applications of this method for marine sulfur biogeochemistry/isotope studies. The presented applications include the sulfur isotope analysis of extremely low amounts of sulfate from saline water, the conversion of radiolabeled sulfate into sulfide, the extraction of refractory sulfur from marine sediments, and the use of this method to assess sulfur cycling in Aarhus Bay sediments.


The STrongly Reducing hydrIodic/hypoPhosphorous/hydrochloric acid (STRIP) reagent is capable of rapidly reducing a wide range of sulfur compounds, including the most oxidized form, sulfate, to hydrogen sulfide. Conversion of as little as approximately 5 micromole sulfate is possible, with a sulfur isotope composition reproducibility of 0.3 permil.


Although developed many decades ago, this distillation method remains relevant for many modern applications. The STRIP distillation quickly and quantitatively converts sulfur compounds to hydrogen sulfide which can be readily collected in a silver nitrate trap for further use. An application of this method to a study of sulfur cycling in Aarhus Bay demonstrates that we account for all of the sulfur compounds in pore-water, effectively closing the mass balance of sulfur cycling.