Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) is one of the most important spectrometric techniques. It is a multi-elemental technique with extremely high sensitivity and large linear dynamic range, which allows simultaneous analysis of main components and ultra-trace elements. It is capable of analyzing elements from Li to U and can be applied to solutions and solids. Solid samples can be analyzed directly (by coupling the ICP-MS to an UV Laser Ablation system) or after dissolution or digestion using a combination of acids, heating and/or pressure. Typical digestion methods are: Microwave digestion (as this is a closed system, potentially volatile analyte species are preserved), Carius digestion (closed system), ashing (furnace), hot plate and parr bomb. The most suitable technique is used for each analysis and depends on the sample composition and characteristics. The resulting sample solution is then nebulized, after which the generated aerosol is transported 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. 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.
Method development (and/or validation) is commonly excised to establish the suitable protocols to analyze elements of interest for different matrices, with the acceptable precision, accuracy, detection limits, quantification limits and robustness. This technique is especially powerful for quantitative chemical analysis of high purity solids and liquids.
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