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Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)

Recognized as one of the most important mass spectrometric techniques, Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) has multi-element capabilities for the characterization of samples in materials science. ICP-MS offers extremely high sensitivity (i.e. low detection limits) for a wide range of elements. Solid samples are generally dissolved or digested using a combination of acids in a closed microwave system, thus retaining potentially volatile analyte species. The resulting sample solution is then nebulized into the core of an inductively coupled argon plasma, where temperatures of approximately 9000 K are attained.  At such high temperatures, the nebulized solution is vaporized, and the analyte species are atomized, and ionized. The ions generated in the high temperature argon plasma core are subsequently accelerated into a mass analyzer for both elemental and isotopic analysis. Intensity measurements are converted to elemental concentration by comparison with calibration standards. This technique is especially powerful for quantitative chemical analysis when standards are not available.

EAG has special expertise in analyzing elemental impurities for pharmaceutical development. Our location in Columbia, MO features six ICP-MS instruments with multiple microwave digesters in a cGMP laboratory dedicated to testing per USP General Chapters <232> Elemental Impurities—Limits and <2232> Elemental Contaminants in Dietary Supplements. Learn more about how EAG Laboratories can help your company meet USP requirements for elemental impurities.

Ideal Uses
  • Bulk quantitative analysis of major, minor and trace elements in solids and liquids
  • Precise and Accurate determination of major and minor elements in a wide range of materials
  • Quality control and process control, and research and development
Technical Specifications

Signal Detected: Positive ions of stable isotopes (MS)

Sample Size Requirement: 250 mg to 1 gram of solid sample; typical solution volumes range from 1 -10 mL

Elements Detected: Up to 70 elements

Typical Detection Limits: parts per billion in solution

Depth Resolution: Bulk analytical technique

Spatially Resolved Analysis: No

Imaging/Mapping: No

Strengths
  • A range of elements (up to 70) can be measured in a single analysis.
  • The useful linear dynamic range is over several orders of magnitude.
  • The analysis can be automated, thus enhancing accuracy, precision and throughput.
  • Dynamic Reaction Cell (DRC) technology virtually eliminates polyatomic isobaric interferences
  • The combination of ICP-OES and ICP-MS is very powerful for determining a wide range of elemental concentrations, from major components to very low levels (typically sub ppb) with high accuracy and precision.
Limitations
  • The sample to be analyzed must be completely digested or dissolved prior to analysis
  • In mass spectral analysis, common matrix elements and other molecular polyatomic species can interfere with the measurement of some analytes.
  • Multiply-charged or polyatomic species can create challenges in quantitation
  • Carbon, Nitrogen, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and halogens cannot be determined using these techniques.