Understanding LA-ICP-MS for Microanalysis

The world of science, and all its many wonders, is ever evolving and growing. From microorganisms and microchips to interplanetary travel – science continues to advance and open more and more possibilities for improving our quality of life and understanding the world around us. The average person may look at a product and not consider how it’s made, what elements are present, or how it functions – they instead appreciate that it’s convenient and dependable. Manufacturers, however, need to understand all aspects of a product to ensure its safety and functionality. In a world of smaller and faster, it is critical to obtain relevant and reliable data to drive decision-making. Sometimes it is necessary to analyze a product on a micro level. To gain this understanding, specialized methods and techniques are needed – such as Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS).

What is LA-ICP-MS

Laser ablation is a microanalytical solid-state sample introduction method invented in the 1980s for academic geochemistry applications. Laser ablation produces a transient


signal for spatially targeted applications. Laser ablation is a fast, clean, and green technique that requires minimal sample preparation (no digestion or dilution), which saves time in the lab. This also equates to far fewer opportunities for contamination. Lastly, the lack of acid reagents makes laser ablation much greener than solution chemistry. Laser ablation is commonly paired with Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). LA-ICP-MS therefore is an analytical technique that uses direct micro-scale sampling to provide high precision elemental characterization of solid materials. This technique is extremely versatile, as the analyses can be performed on many solid materials without any preparation.

Ideal uses of LA-ICP-MS are elemental survey of solids, traceability analysis, elemental distribution analysis and mapping, local inclusion and defect analysis, and depth specific chemical assay. Manufacturers of computer chips and printed circuit boards, components for medical devices, industrial coatings, and lithium-ion batteries, or anything that has a really small structure to it, often utilize EAG Scientists to perform this analysis to better understand their products.

Working with EAG Scientists for LA-ICP-MS Analysis

When it comes to understanding the physical structure of advanced materials, no other scientific services company offers the breadth of experience or technical ingenuity that can be found at EAG Laboratories. EAG continuously delivers problem solving expertise to help their customers accelerate innovation, ensure quality and safety, and protect intellectual property. Our scientists provide direct elemental analysis of most solid materials with minimal or no destructive sample preparation, including qualitative, semi-quantitative, and fully quantitative data, independent of electrical conductivity.

If you need to target a specific feature in a solid sample or require bulk compositional analysis of a specimen too small for solution ICP-MS, contact EAG to determine if laser ablation is right for your project.  Fixed spot ablation can analyze features as small as ~20 µm, while replicate scan line ablation of a sample can be used to approximate bulk solution analysis.  Laser ablation is also suitable for materials that may more commonly be analyzed by solution ICP-MS or other destructive preparation techniques, but which require minimally invasive analysis because of their intrinsic value (e.g., antiquities, forensic evidence, reference specimens intended for preservation).  Partner with EAG Scientists to learn more about LA-ICP-MS and the analytical information that it can provide.

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