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ICP-MS: A versatile detection system for trace element and speciation analysis


Inductively coupled plasma (ICP) mass spectrometry (MS) is routinely used in many diverse research fields such as earth, environmental, life and forensic sciences and in food, material, chemical, semiconductor and nuclear industries. The high ion density and the high temperatures in the plasma makes it an ideal atomizer and element ionizer for all types of samples and matrices introduced by a variety of specialized devices. Outstanding properties such as high sensitivity (ppt-ppq), relative salt tolerance, compound-independent element response and highest quantitation accuracy lead to the unchallenged performance of ICP-MS in efficiently detecting, identifying and reliably quantifying trace elements.

The versatility of ICP-MS for speciation is reflected in the increasing use of the technique and the publication activity of the research community. While the growth rate of the publication activity is decreasing since approximately 1997, the publication rate is still growing and has surpassed about 500 papers in 2015 (see graph below).

Fig. 1: Development of publications related to ICP-MS for speciation analysis

Chemical speciation analysis requires not only element selectivity but differentiation of element species, which (with the exception of isotopic species) calls for separation prior to ICP-MS detection. Separation can be done both off- and on-line, whereby on-line separation has the advantage of an integrated closed system giving reduced contamination, improved reproducibility and sample throughput. Coupling of separation modules with the ICP-MS giving a hyphenated system is straightforward for flow injection, liquid chromatography and gas chromatography but also can be realized for super critical  fluid extraction and chromatography (SFE/SFC), capillary electrophoresis (CE) and field flow fractionation (FFF).

It is therefore not surprising that a high number of ICP-MS papers deal with chemical speciation analysis (about 1/3 of all ICP-MS papers!).

Recent reviews on ICP-MS (for speciation analysis) (newest first)
J. Feldmann, A. Raab, E.M. Krupp, Importance of ICPMS for speciation analysis is changing: future trends for targeted and non targeted element speciation analysis, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 410 (2018) 661-667. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-017-0502-8

Lena Telgmann, Uwe Lindner, Jana Lingott, Norbert Jakubowski, Analysis and Speciation of Lanthanoides by ICP-MS, Phy. Sci. Rev., 1/11 (2016) 20160058: DOI: 10.1515/psr-2016-0058

J. Giner Martínez-Sierra, O. Galilea San Blas, J.M. Marchante Gayón, J.I. García Alonso, Sulfur analysis by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry: A review, Spectrochim. Acta Part B, 108 (2015) 35–52. DOI: 10.1016/j.sab.2015.03.016

C.G. Vogiatzis, G.A.Zachariadis, Tandem mass spectrometry in metallomics and the involving role of ICP-MS detection:A review, Anal. Chim. Acta, 819 (2014) 1–14. DOI: 10.1016/j.aca.2014.01.029

  A.Y. Leykin, P.V. Yakimovich, Systems for the suppression of spectral interferences for inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, J. Anal. Chem. (Engl. Transl.), 67/8 (2012) 677-686. DOI: 10.1134/S1061934812080047

Daniel Proefrock, Andreas Prange, Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) for Quantitative Analysis in Environmental and Life Sciences: A Review of Challenges, Solutions, and Trends, Appl. Spectrosc., 66/8 (2012) 843-868. DOI: 10.1366/12-06681

Christian Agatemor, Diane Beauchemin, Matrix effects in inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry: A Review, Anal. Chim. Acta, 706/1 (2011) 66-83. DOI: 10.1016/j.aca.2011.08.027

Diane Beauchemin, Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, Anal. Chem., 82 (2010) 4786-4810. DOI: 10.1021/ac101187p

Kathryn L. Linge, Kym E. Jarvis, Quadrupole ICP-MS: Introduction to Instrumentation, Measurement Techniques and Analytical Capabilities, Geost. Geoanal. Res., 33/3 (2009) 445-467. DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-908X.2009.00039.x

Adrian A. Ammann, Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP MS): a versatile tool, J. Mass Spectrom., 42/4 (2007) 419-427. DOI: 10.1002/jms.1206

Rodolfo G. Wuilloud, Jorgelina C. Altamirano, Speciation Analysis of Non-Metallic Elements Using Plasma-Based Atomic Spectrometry for Detection, Curr. Anal. Chem., 2/4 (2006) 353-377. DOI: 10.2174/157341106778520544

Clayton B'Hymer, Joseph A. Caruso, Selenium speciation analysis using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, J. Chromatogr. A, 1114 (2006) 1-20. DOI:10.1016/j.chroma.2006.02.063

Monika Shah, Joseph A. Caruso, Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry in separation techniques: Recent trends in phosphorus speciation, J. Sep. Sci., 28/15 (2005) 1969. DOI: 10.1002/jssc.200500234

R. Waddell, C. Lewis, W. Hang, C. Hassell, Vahid Majidi, Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for elemental speciation: Applications in the new millennium, Appl. Spectrosc. Rev., 40/1 (2005) 33-69. DOI:10.1081/ASR-200038310

Dirk Schaumlöffel, Ryszard Lobinski, Isotope dilution technique for quantitative analysis of endogeneous trace element species in biological systems, Int. J. Mass Spectrom., 242/2-3 (2005) 217-223. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijms.2004.11.020

Pablo Rodríguez-González, Juan Manuel Marchante-Gayón, J. Ignacio García AlonsoAlfredo Sanz-Medel, Isotope dilution analysis for elemental speciation: a tutorial review, Spectrochim. Acta, Part B, 60/2 (2005) 151-207. DOI: 10.1016/j.sab.2005.01.005

A. Hagege, T. Baldinger, M. Martin-Jouet, F. Zal, M. Leroy, E. Leize, A.V. Dorsselaer, Assessmenmt of the contribution of inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry to metalloprotein analysis: A novel approach for studies of multiproteic complexes, Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom., 18/6 (2004) 735-738. DOI: 10.1002/rcm.1395

Francesco Cubadda, Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry for the determination of elements and elemental species in food: a review, J. AOAC International, 87/1 (2004) 173-204.  DOI: 10.1093/jaoac/87.1.173

Juris Meija, Sandra Mounicou, Joseph A. Caruso, Plasma spectrometry for elemental speciation and characterization in  beverages, J. AOAC International, 87/1 (2004) 205-224. DOI: 10.5555/jaoi.2004.87.1.205

S.J. Ray, F. Andrade, G. Gamez, D. McClenathan, D. Rogers, G. Schilling, W. Wetzel, G.M. Hieftje, Plasma-source mass spectrometry for speciation analysis: state-of-the-art, J. Chromatogr. A, 1050/1 (2004) 3-34. DOI: 10.1016/j.chroma.2004.07.107

Mariella Moldovan, Eva M. Krupp, Alison E. Holliday, Olivier F. X. Donard, High resolution sector field ICP-MS and multicollector ICP-MS as tools for trace metal speciation in environmental studies: a review, J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 19/7 (2004) 815. DOI: 10.1039/b403128h

Amy L. Rosen, Gary M. Hieftje, Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and electrospray mass spectrometry for speciation analysis: applications and instrumentation, Spectrochim. Acta, Part B, 59/2 (2004) 135-146. DOI: 10.1016/j.sab.2003.09.004

Alfredo Sanz-Medel, María Montes-Bayón, María Luisa Fernández Sánchez, Trace element speciation by ICP-MS in large biomolecules and its potential in proteomics, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 377/2 (2003) 236-247. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-003-2082-z

Books on ICP-MS (newest first)

Diane Beauchemin, Sample Introduction Systems in ICPMS and ICPOES, Elsevier (2020) pp. 572.  ISBN: 978-0-444-59482-2
Jose-Luis Todoli, Jean-Michel Mermet, Liquid Sample Introduction in ICP Spectrometry,   A Practical Guide, Elsevier (2008) pp.289. ISBN: 978-0-444-53142-1
Johanna Sabine Becker, Inorganic Mass Spectrometry: Principles and Applications, Wiley, 2007, pp. 504
J.G. Holland, D.R. Bandura, Plasma Source Mass Spectrometry: Current Trends and Future Developments, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 2006. ISBN: 08540466314
Steve Hill, Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometry and its Applications, 2nd ed., Blackwell, 2006, pp. 448
Simon Nelms, ICP Mass Spectrometry Handbook, Blackwell, 2005, pp. 504. DOI: 10.1002/9781444305463
Howard E. Taylor, Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry : practices and techniques, Acaddemic Press, 2002, pp. x+294.  DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-683865-7.X5000-5 
Diane Beauchemin, D.C. Grégoire, V. Karanassios, T.J. Wood, D. Günther, J.-M. Mermet, Discrete Sample Introduction Techniques for Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, Elsevier, 2000, pp. 650
Akbar Montaser (Editor), Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, John Wiley & Sons, 1998, pp. 1000

Introductory materials

Agilent Technologies: Handbook of Hyphenated ICP-MS Applications (Second edition, 2015)
Glass Expansion: Selecting the right ICP spray chamber
Inorganic Ventures:  ICP Operations - A Guide for New ICP Users
Inorganic Ventures: ICP-MS Sensitivity Optimization
Jenna Worley and Steve Kvech, Principles of ICP-MS
Kenneth L. Busch, A Glossary for Mass Spectrometry, Spectroscopy, 17 (2002) 526
NKS-NORCMASS guide to beginners in ICP-MS
PerkinElmer: The 30-min Guide to ICP-MS
PerkinElmer: Atomic Spectroscopy, A Guide to Selecting the Appropriate Technique and System
Thermo Fisher Scientific: What is an ICP-MS system?

Spectroscopy Tutorials: Robert Thomas, A Beginner's Guide to ICP-MS

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The sample Introduction System
Part 3: The Plasma Source
Part 4: The Interface Region
Part 5: The Ion Focusing System
Part 6: The Mass Analyzer
Part 7: Mass Separation Devices, Double-Focusing Magnetic-Sector Technology
Part 8: Mass Analyzers: Time-of-Flight Technology
Part 9: Mass Analyzers: Collision/Reaction Cell Technology
Part 10: Detectors
Part 11: Peak Measurement Protocol
Part 12: A review of interferences
Part 13: Sampling Accessories
Part 14: Sampling Accessories II

EVISA Database System

Company database: Manufacturers of ICP-MS instruments
Company database: Mass spectrometry societies
Journal Database: Mass spectrometry journals
 Instrument database: Commercially available ICP-MS instruments
 Components database: ICP-torches
 Components database: ICP-cones
 Components database: ICP nebulizers
Components database: ICP spray chambers
Agenda of Events: Events related to ICP-MS

EVISA link pages

Resources related to analytical sciences
Resources related to mass spectrometry
Resources related to Chromatography
Resources related to quality assurance/quality control

 Web resources

Glass Expansion: Pump Speed and Sample Uptake Calculator

Isotopic composition of the Elements - IUPAC 2013
Inorganic Ventures: Analytical Periodic System
IUPAC: Compendium of Analytical Nomenclature: Mass Spectrometry
LabTube: Teach me in 10: An Introduction to ICP-MS
LabTube: Teach me in 10: ICP-MS Part II
Lenntech: Ionization energy of elements
NIST: Atomic Weights and Isotope Composition with Relative Atomic Masses
PlasmaChem Discussion Forum: Search the Archive
York University ion-molecule reaction database

Maintenace and Troubleshooting

Agilent: ICP-MS Installation & Maintenance Videos 
CPI International: Routine Maintenance for the ICP-MS Sample Introduction System
Glass Expansion: Product Care (nebulizers, spray chambers, torches, cones)
porvair: Chemical resistance of pump tubing
Spectron: Cone Cleaning Guide
Spectroscopy: Approaches to Maximize Performance and Reduce the Frequency of Routine Maintenance in ICP-MS

Further chapters on techniques and methodology for speciation analysis:

Chapter 1: Tools for elemental speciation
Chapter 2: ICP-MS - A versatile detection system for speciation analysis
Chapter 3: LC-ICP-MS - The most often used hyphenated system for speciation analysis
Chapter 4: GC-ICP-MS- A very sensitive hyphenated system for speciation analysis
Chapter 5: CE-ICP-MS for speciation analysis
Chapter 6: ESI-MS: The tool for the identification of species
Chapter 7: Speciation Analysis - Striving for Quality
Chapter 8: Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry as a Detection System for Speciation Analysis
Chapter 9: Gas chromatography for the separation of elemental species
Chapter 10: Plasma source detection techniques for gas chromatography
Chapter 11: Fractionation as a first step towards speciation analysis
Chapter 12: Flow-injection inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for speciation analysis
Chapter 13: Gel electrophoresis combined with laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for speciation analysis
Chapter 14: Non-chromatographic separation techniques for speciation analysis

Related EVISA News (newest first)

January 7, 2021: New isotope ratio mass spectrometry system delivers high-precision analysis for a range of applications
September 17, 2018: Single particle detection by ICP-MS: From particles via ion clouds to signals
March 16, 2018: Thermo Fisher Launches New ICP-MS in Semiconductor Manufacturing
March 14, 2017: New Triple Quadrupole ICP-MS launched by Thermo Fisher
June 9, 2016: Agilent is introducing the second generation of Triple Quadrupole ICP-MS system: The 8900
March 11, 2016: Shimadzu: New Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS)
March 3, 2015: Analytik Jena AG Expands its Product Range

January 8, 2014: Agilent Technologies Introduces Breakthrough ICP-MS and MP-AES Platforms
July 17, 2013: Agilent Technologies Triple Quadrupole ICP-MS Selected for R&D 100 Award
February 11, 2013: Bruker launched its new aurora Elite ICP-MS instrument with spectacular sensitivity specs
July 19, 2012: Triple Quad ICP-MS: Pushing the limits for quantitation of phosphorus and sulfur

last time modified: March 9, 2024

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