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icp ms and mass spectrometry

Overview of ICP-MS And Mass Spectrometry

by Martha Simmonds

In inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), an aerosol containing the analyte is pumped via a nebulizer and inserted into a plasma of argon gas. Plasma’s high temperature (5500-6500 K) is high enough to atomize and ionize practically any element, including those possessing the greatest ionization potential. 

Electrostatic ion optic elements may then direct the newly formed analyte ions into a mass spectrometer, where they can be identified after being separated by their m/z ratio. Due to the high efficiency with which most elements are ionized, the times an elemental ion is detected is directly proportional to the concentration of that ion in the analyte.

What Are ICP-MS And Mass Spectrometry?

The fundamentals of ICP-MS have become the most flexible detection method thanks to its extensive usage in discovering novel materials and the elemental analysis of many different types of samples.

ICP-MS is used in various disciplines, including biophysics, environmental research, forensics, biomaterials, speciation analysis, and so on, because of its ability to identify and measure most of the periodic table.

Different ICP-MS Instruments

Some examples of ICP-MS instruments are shown below.

7850 ICP-MS

Eliminating unnecessary distractions frees up time-pressed workers to concentrate on more productive endeavors.  The dilution time trap is minimized by the 7850 ICP-MS instrument’s capability to process samples containing up to 25% solids. 

Both polyatomic and doubly charged ion interferences are eliminated thanks to the instrument’s helium-type collision cell and 1/2 mass correction. It simplifies the project’s development and eliminates a frequent source of time-consuming sample remeasurements.

7900 ICP-MS

The finest features are the matrix tolerance, the effectiveness of the helium collision mode, the limit of detection, and the dynamic range of this versatile single quadrupole ICP mass spectrometer. So, no matter the sample types you choose, you can be certain that the data you provide is correct.

The 7900 ICP-MS has the versatility required for studies and advanced analysis like speciation while also delivering the best performance for demanding business and industrial applications. You’ll have an advantage over others thanks to its high sensitivity and quick capture of transient signals, which are required to analyze single nanoparticles, single cells, and laser ablation.

8900 ICP-MS Triple Quadrupole

Among tandem ICP mass spectrometers, this one has seen the greatest application and had the most success. The 8900 ICP-QQQ redefines ICP-MS performance and provides reliable findings for various applications, including regular contract analysis, high-level study, and the analysis of high-purity materials.

The 8900 is the most advanced and versatile multi-element analyzer on the market because its mass spectrometer operation allows unparalleled process chemistry control in the collision reaction cell (CRC). 

7800 ICP-MS

The 7850 ICP-MS is a more advanced instrument that has replaced the 7800. In standard ICP-MS applications, the 7850 ICP-MS is optimized for quick setup and analysis, saving your lab time and effort while facilitating the production of high-quality findings.

ICP-MS And Mass Spectrometry’s Strengths

ICP-MS’s strengths include its low detection limit and great dynamic range, allowing it to study almost everything in the periodic table. Having a high sample rate is another strength, especially for commercial uses. 

Usually, results may be obtained with little sample volume and minimal preparation effort. The approach can also discriminate between stable and radioactive isotopes, allowing for the precise determination of isotope ratios. When combined with a separation technique to allow for the detection of analyte species, ICP-MS excels as a selective detector.

What Are ICP-MS And Mass Spectrometry used for?

The inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) is a rapid method of multi-element analysis that can determine the concentration of almost any element in various sample types. ICP-MS elemental analysis labs are often found in businesses that need extensive sample analysis and precise measurement of several elements.

Monitoring and control (of lake water, potable water, estuarine and marine, sewage, dirt, etc.), regular food safety assessments, pharmaceutical analysis, and market product testing are all examples of such businesses. In addition to semiconductors and natural chemical production, ICP-MS finds widespread use in bioscience, medical research, and education.

Examining A Sample Of Liquid

Samples are most often delivered into an ICP-MS apparatus in liquid form because liquid calibration samples are readily accessible. It can be quickly generated with all the necessary analytes at the proper concentrations.

For convenience, solid samples are commonly transformed into liquids via acid digestion. It is to dissolve the sample matrix or acid extractor to separate the analytes into a solution before being analyzed. 

A common pneumatic nebulizer infuses liquid samples in most typical ICP-MS applications. Calibration is developed from the examination of standards of known concentration, and this calibration is then used to compare the total concentrations of the components of interest.

Isotope ratio analysis and isotope dilution analysis are examples of the more out-of-the-ordinary measurements that may be performed using ICP-MS. For approximate or “mid” readings for all elements without special calibration standards, ICP-MS may also execute a rapid scan throughout the mass range. 

Useful in determining the source of heavy metal toxicity, locating manufacturing faults, and conducting contamination assessments of environmental or dietary samples.

Analyzing Species

It is possible to separate the various chemical forms of an element by connecting the ICP-MS to a chromatography instrument, as in an ICP-MS speciation study. The ICP-MS acts as usual in picking up the elemental signal. Still, the ICP-MS is subjected to consecutive introductions of the various chemical forms for independent detection and quantification.

Separating dangerous from non-toxic variants of a component in both food and environment samples is just one use of speciation analysis using ICP-MS. Many industrial procedures call for evaluating the element’s chemical form, whether to guarantee the product functions or to spot pollutants that might alter the process or cause undesired emissions. 

Detecting mercury compounds in petrochemical refinery feedstocks is one industrial speciation analysis used to prevent catalytic toxicity and corrosion in the cracking process equipment. Trace hydride gas pollutants in the arsine gas utilized as a precursor in non-silicon semiconductor device manufacture are measured using GC-ICP-MS in semiconductor manufacturing.

Small Particles And Individual Cells

This is useful for determining how much of a certain element is soluble in a sample solution. It can also be employed to analyze the elemental makeup of very small particles floating in the liquid. The nebulizer and spray chamber of the ICP-MS would filter out any particles larger than a few microns, rendering them unmeasurable. 

However, nanoparticles are too tiny to dissolve in the aerosol droplets and are instead transported to the plasma. The destruction and atomization of these “nanoparticles” (NPs) in the plasma produces a “plume” of ions. This may be detected as a pulse-superimposed signal over the dissolved element’s continuous background signal. 

To better understand the effects of NPs on ecological and biological systems, the single particle ICP-MS (spICP-MS) investigation of NPs is gaining popularity. Industrial processes, consumer goods, paints and coatings, and applications, including medicine delivery and agrochemicals, are increasing their usage of NPs. 

Single-cell ICP-MS is a similar application that employs a low-flow sample introduction technique to introduce whole cells to the plasma (scICP-MS). In order to better comprehend biological and biopharmaceutical processes, this method permits the measurement of the metal content of individual cells.

Examination of solid samples

Although liquid samples are more common, ICP-MS may also be used to examine solids with the help of the right attachment. Direct solids analysis by LA-ICP-MS involves connecting a laser ablation (LA) equipment to an ICP-MS. 

For LA-ICP-MS, the sample is mounted in a chamber, and a high-energy beam from a pulsed laser is focused onto the sample’s surface. A gas stream (often helium) carries the ablated and emitted solid particles from the sample surface to the ICP torch. They are broken, dissociated, atomized, and ionized in the same manner as conventional aerosol droplets.

When it would be difficult to digest the material, including quality checks of metals, composites, glasses, and ceramics, alloys LA-ICP-MS is employed for bulk (whole sample) analysis. The laser may be focussed to a beam size of just a few microns, making LA-ICP-MS useful for analyzing small samples or a small fraction of a larger sample. 

Gemstones, archaeological relics, ceramics, coins, paint pieces, and other priceless samples may now be analyzed with little damage thanks to these capabilities.

Analyzing gases

A specialized gas handling apparatus is utilized to bring gases into the ICP for direct analysis of components in gases. Headspace sampling for taste and aroma testing of products and meals; assessing trace pollutants in raw materials for chemical and petrochemical production; are all examples of how ICP-MS gas analysis may be used. 

With GC-ICP-MS, a gas chromatograph (GC) is linked to a piece of ICP-MS equipment by means of a heated transfer line, allowing for the performance of several of these tasks. The sample is prepared for the GC using regular gas sampling equipment, and the chemicals are detected and quantified by the ICP-MS as they leave the GC column. 

Many of the applications for GC-ICP-MS are similar to those for organic GC mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Still, the ICP-MS detector allows for lower detection limits, better specificity, and the possibility of compound-independent calibration for substances that contain a heteroelement that ICP-MS could measure.

Applications in which organometallic vapors may be employed, such as semiconductor manufacture, highlight the growing importance of gaseous sample direct analysis. Gas-exchange devices (GEDs) have been included in ICP-MS instruments, allowing for the transfer of chemicals from the laboratory air into an argon stream that is subsequently fed into the ICP.

ICP-OES vs. ICP-MS: What’s the difference?

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) are alike. They both aspirate or pump liquid samples into a nebulizer, which generates an aerosol injected into an argon plasma. 

As its name indicates, optical emission spectroscopy does not study the m/z of ionized atoms. OES analyzes the wavelength of the distinctive energy released by atoms when their electrons are passed from a strongly higher energy state back to the neutral state.

Key Takeaways

Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) has high sensitivity and the ability to identify the isotope structure of the sample using fewer time-consuming preparation procedures, unlike other mass spectrometry methods. ICP-MS is a strong tool for tracing multi-element and isotopic research.

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