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 of high purity solids.
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