Laser Ablation with the icpTOF: Application Note

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Laser Ablation with the icpTOF: Sensitive, Simultaneous Analysis of All Isotopes

Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is a well established technique for the direct elemental analysis of solid samples.  Most LA-ICP mass spectrometers are based on quadrupole or scanning sector-field mass analyzers.  With these “sequential” mass analyzers, isotopes in a user-defined list are sequentially measured one at a time in order to construct a mass spectrum.  The time required to record an entire mass spectrum depends on the number of isotopes measured and is typically at least a few hundred milliseconds.  In contrast, a time-of-flight (TOF) mass analyzer detects all isotopes simultaneously and can record a complete mass spectrum in tens of microseconds.  For these reasons, TOF mass analyzers have long been proposed as a more suitable detector for LA applications, where signal transients can be as short as 1 or 2 milliseconds, arising from large individual particles or individual laser pulses.  To date, though, commercial ICP-TOF mass spectrometers have suffered from poor sensitivity and other drawbacks.

This application note compares the performance of the TOFWERK icpTOF  and a quadrupole-based ICP-MS as detectors for a laser ablation system.  It is demonstrated that the icpTOF provides:

  • Accurate results for even the shortest LA signals
  • Fast, simultaneous measurement of all isotopes,  ensuring that small sample features are never missed
  • Lower limits of detection, better isotope ratio precision, and higher effective sensitivity for multi-element analysis than the QMS-based system