Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 137–142 | Cite as

A modified method for biogenic silica determination



We describe a modified method for the determination of biogenic silica (BSi) in lacustrine sediment samples with BSi concentrations >0.5% SiO2 (detection limit). To speed up the leaching procedure (48 samples per day), we suggest the use of Teflon autoclaves that can be left unattended (no stirring of the solution) for 3 h at 100°C in an oven. We suggest a volume correction by Na measurement to account for volume errors during pipetting off a hot solution. We also propose to carry out a correction for minerogenic silica by the simultaneous determination of Al in the leachate. Analytical precision and accuracy of the proposed method are 2.4% (relative standard deviation) and 70–110% recovery (relative to the mean of four international reference sediment samples), respectively. Additionally, we demonstrate that pre-treatment of the samples with H2O2 and/or HCl prior to alkaline leaching is not necessary for all samples. Due to the great diversity of lacustrine and marine sediments, however, the pre-treatment procedure should be tailored for samples from different sites.


Biogenic silica NaOH-extraction ICP-OES Teflon autoclaves 



We thank Claire Treignier, Brian Sinnet, Ingrid Holderegger, Daniel Schloz (all Eawag), for developing the method in the laboratory. Sabine Stahl (Univ. Bremen, GEOPOLAR) is acknowledged for BSi analyses of reference sediment with the timed dissolution method in Bremen. The manuscript benefited greatly from critical comments by Beat Müller (Eawag) and from the comments and suggestions of Mark Brenner and an anonymous reviewer.


  1. Blass A, Anselmetti FS, Grosjean M, Sturm M (2005) The last 1300 years of environmental history recorded in the sediments of Lake Sils (Engadine, Switzerland). Eclogae Geol Helv 98:319–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Carter SJ, Colman SM (1994) Biogenic silica in Lake Baikal sediments: results from 1990–1992 American cores. J Gt Lakes Res 20:751–760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chester R, Elderfield H (1968) The infrared determination of opal in siliceous deep-sea sediments. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 32:1128–1140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Conley D (1998) An interlaboratory comparison for the measurement of biogenic silica in sediments. Mar Chem 63:39–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. DeMaster DJ (1981) The supply and accumulation of silica in the marine environment. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 45:1715–1732CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Eggimann DW, Manheim FT, Betzer PR (1980) Dissolution and analysis of amorphous silica in marine sediments. J Sed Petrol 50:215–225Google Scholar
  7. Eisma D, Gaast SVD (1971) Determination of opal in marine sediments by X-ray diffraction. Neth J Sea Res 5:382–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Goldberg ED (1958) Determination of opal in marine sediments. J Mar Res 17:178–182Google Scholar
  9. Heinrichs H, Brumsack H-J, Loftfield N, König N (1986) Verbessertes Druckaufschlussystem für biologische und anorganische Materialien. Z Pflanzenernähr Bodenk 149:350–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kamatani A, Oku O (2000) Measuring biogenic silica in marine sediments. Mar Chem 68:219–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Koning E, Epping E, Raaphorst WV (2002) Determining biogenic silica in marine samples by tracking silicate and aluminium concentrations in alkaline leaching solutions. Aquat Geochem 8:37–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mortlock RA, Froehlich PN (1989) A simple method for the rapid determination of biogenic opal in pelagic marine sediments. Deep-Sea Res 36:1415–1426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Müller PJ, Schneider R (1993) An automated leaching method for the determination of opal in sediments and particulate matter. Deep-Sea Res 40:425–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Sturm M, Zeh U, Mueller J, Sigg L, Stabel HH (1982) Suspension material in Lake Constance studied by periodic sampling of sediments. Eclogae Geol Helv 75:579–588Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geomorphology and Polar Research (GEOPOLAR), Institute of GeographyUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.Sedimentology Section/SURFSwiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)DübendorfSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations