ICP-MS Basics

ICP-MS is an analytical technique suitable for the determination of nearly 70% of the elements in the periodic table at concentrations below 1 ng/g. It is widely used in many scientific disciplines, particularly environmental science, geology, and biology. ICP-MS is used to analyze gases, liquids, and, when introduced as slurries or particles ablated by a laser beam, as solids. Sample material reaching the plasma is desolvated, vaporized, atomized, and ionized. Ions enter the mass spectrometer where they are focused, then separated based on their mass-to-charge (m/z) ratio, before being counted, usually with an electron multiplier (<106 cps) or sometimes a faraday cup (~106 to ~109 cps) detector.

There are a number of quality books, publications, and websites on ICP-MS, a few of which are recommended below (and references therein). In addition, the “plasmachem” listserv is useful to learn about the practical aspects of analyzing samples by ICP-MS from those actively using the technique. It also allows you to post questions to your colleagues. More information on the listserv, and how to sign up, can be found at: http://listserv.syr.edu/archives/plasmachem-l.html. Instrument manufacturer websites are also good places to acquire basic knowledge on ICP-MS and acquire application notes.

  • Robert Thomas, “Practical Guide to ICP-MS (A Tutorial for Beginners)”, 2nd edition, 2008, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Fl
  • Ling KL, Jarvis KE, “Quadrupole ICP-MS: Introduction to Instrumentation, Measurement Techniques and Analytical Capabilities”, Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research, Vol. 33, No. 4, 445-467
  • http://minerals.cr.usgs.gov/icpms/intro.html