LA-ICP-MS Services

LA-ICP-MS is a microanalytical technique for direct elemental and isotopic analysis. In laser ablation, material is removed from a solid sample using a pulsed laser. This contrasts with the more common solution Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) in which a liquid sample is turned into an aerosol by a nebulizer to facilitate introduction to the mass spectrometer. The most commonly used types of laser for this technique feature either a solid-state Nd:YAG or gaseous Excimer laser source with ultraviolet wavelength and nanosecond pulse width (duration). The pulsed laser induces heating, evaporation, and ionization of the sample (Figure 1); the plume of ablated material subsequently recondenses into nanoparticles which are swept into the ICP-MS by a carrier gas stream. The argon plasma in the ICP-MS acts as a secondary energy source that ionizes the sample atoms for discrimination and measurement according to the mass to charge (m/z) ratio of the positively charged ions.

As a microanalytical technique, laser ablation requires substantially less sample mass than solution ICP-MS. Picograms to femtograms of material are removed by laser ablation, making this a true minimally destructive approach to elemental analysis. In contrast to solution ICP- MS, LA-ICP-MS requires no chemical preparation of samples such as leaching, digestion, fusion, or liquid dilution. Many samples can be analyzed as received, while some may require mechanical preparation to ensure that the sample fits in the laser ablation cell and presents as smooth and flat a surface as possible to the laser. In addition to facilitating analysis of samples too small for solution ICP-MS (or too valuable for destructive analysis), laser ablation is ideally suited to analysis of difficult to digest materials like refractory minerals, metals, and alloys.


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