A Guide to Fundamentals of ICP-MS

Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) is a very useful analytical instrument that can be broadly used in many scientific fields. These fields can include biomedical research, environmental research, and pharmaceutical research. The ability of ICP-MS to accurately trace elements and isotopes has proven to be a very handy tool for analysts and scientists.

Even with Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry being a useful and strong scientific tool, it can still be challenging and scary to accomplish this scientific method if you are new to this kind of work. This article will discuss the fundamentals of ICP-MS to help you get started with understanding the essentials of this tool.

What Exactly is ICP-MS?

ICP-MS means Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, a technique used by scientists, analysts, and researchers to identify what elements an object is made of. Instead of measuring the molecules and compounds, ICP-MS is an elemental analysis technique that measures elements. This scientific tool is useful since everything in this world comprises different elements.

One of the fundamentals of ICP-MS is its process, where ICP-MS utilizes argon (Ar) plasma, which is the ICP, to turn the sample into ions that are gauged using a mass spectrometer, which is the MS part.

ICP-MS is similar to inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES). Still, the latter method uses an optical spectrometer to measure the light from the elements passing through the plasma. On the other hand, ICP-MS measures the elements directly.

Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry has lesser detection limits, making it a better option for trace element analysis.

What is Measured by ICP-MS?

One of the most common samples that ICP-MS is used to analyze is liquids, like water or something that can be dissolved. But other than that, ICP-MS is still an extremely capable tool that can easily measure organic solvents, detect tiny particles, and directly analyze solid materials and gases.

When paired with a chromatographic separation device like IC, GC, CE, HPLC, or Field Flow Fractionation (FFF), ICP-MS can give details about the various chemical forms of each element in a sample. Also, ICP-MS can separate and gauge the individual isotopes of an element as a mass spectrometric skill.

ICP-MS is utilized in many fields and industries, such as consumer product testing, food and pharmaceutical safety applications, environmental monitoring, life science, mining and metal analysis, clinical research, nuclear purposes, petrochemicals, and many other fields.

This scientific method is widely used in many fields and industries because of its capability to measure almost every naturally occurring element alongside non-natural radiogenic isotopes.

Besides those elements, ICP-MS is only limited by not being able to measure H and HE because they are below the mass range of a mass spectrometer, AR, N, and O because they have high levels from plasma and air, and F and Ne, because they can’t be ionized in an argon plasma.

How Exactly Does ICP-MS Work?

The science behind this technique is that samples are introduced into argon plasma as aerosol droplets. The plasma dries the aerosol, so the molecules dissociate, removing the components’ electrons and making single-charged ions. These ions are placed into a mass filtering device, which is the mass spectrometer.

When the ions leave the mass spectrometer, they hit the first dynode of an electron multiplier, which has the role of a detector. The ions then release a swarm of electrons, which are boosted until they become measurable. The software analyzes the intensities of the measurable pulses of the ions, compares them to the standard (the calibration curve), and figures out the concentration of the element.

ICP-MS is a Valuable Tool

Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry is a very sensitive scientific instrument that helps determine traces of elements for different fields. ICP-MS offers many benefits and features, which is why various scientific fields utilize this technique. If you are interested in analyzing elemental components, ICP-MS can be a valuable tool.

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