Concept

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

Summary
Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is a type of mass spectrometry that uses an inductively coupled plasma to ionize the sample. It atomizes the sample and creates atomic and small polyatomic ions, which are then detected. It is known and used for its ability to detect metals and several non-metals in liquid samples at very low concentrations. It can detect different isotopes of the same element, which makes it a versatile tool in isotopic labeling. Compared to atomic absorption spectroscopy, ICP-MS has greater speed, precision, and sensitivity. However, compared with other types of mass spectrometry, such as thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) and glow discharge mass spectrometry (GD-MS), ICP-MS introduces many interfering species: argon from the plasma, component gases of air that leak through the cone orifices, and contamination from glassware and the cones. Inductively coupled plasma An inductively coupled plasma is a plasma that is energized (ionized) by inductively heating the gas with an electromagnetic coil, and contains a sufficient concentration of ions and electrons to make the gas electrically conductive. Not all of the gas needs to be ionized for the gas to have the characteristics of a plasma; as little as 1% ionization creates a plasma. The plasmas used in spectrochemical analysis are essentially electrically neutral, with each positive charge on an ion balanced by a free electron. In these plasmas the positive ions are almost all singly charged and there are few negative ions, so there are nearly equal numbers of ions and electrons in each unit volume of plasma. The ICPs have two operation modes, called capacitive (E) mode with low plasma density and inductive (H) mode with high plasma density, and E to H heating mode transition occurs with external inputs. The Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry is operated in the H mode. What makes Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) unique to other forms of inorganic mass spectrometry is its ability to sample the analyte continuously, without interruption.
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