Home > Chemical > Technology > Elemental Analysis > Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICPMS)

Inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is a hybrid technique consisting of an inductively coupled plasma (ICP) interfaced to a mass spectrometer (MS) and is used for simultaneous multi-analyte determination of ~82 elements on the periodic table. ICP-MS utilizes a RF-generated argon plasma gas to sequentially desolvate, vaporize, atomize, and ionize samples for elemental analysis. The ionized elements pass into a mass analyzer for separation based on their mass/charge (m/z) ratios. Each element has a series of m/z ratios which are characteristic of its naturally occurring isotopes.  In addition to providing a qualitative elemental profile, ICP-MS measurements also generate quantitative information down to the parts per trillion (ng/L) level.  ICP-MS can be used to analyze both solid and liquid samples. Liquid based sample introduction systems are available for analysis of both aqueous and organic samples, and direct analysis of solid samples can be performed using laser ablation and spark sources.  Virtually all mass spectrometer designs have been interfaced to the ICP ion source, with commercially available systems using quadrupole, time-of-flight, magnetic sector, and triple-quad mass spectrometers. ICPMS systems are also used as detectors for gas and liquid chromatography, and capillary electrophoresis systems. ICP-MS instrumentation ranges in size from small benchtop models to much larger footprints.  The technique is mature and instruments are available from most major instrument manufacturers.  The cost of instrumentation is largely dependent upon the mass spectrometer design employed but typically starts in the range of $80,000-$100,000.