Skip to content

Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)

Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS Analysis) Testing Technique

ICP-MS is a trace analysis technique conducted on our new Agilent 7900. The Agilent 7900 ICP-MS analyzes the majority of the periodic table elements by ionizing species to the +1 state, followed by Quadrapole Mass Spectrometric analysis of the ionized species.

Elements are identified by their individual masses and isotopic fingerprints, and have detection limits that can be as low as parts per trillion (ppt).

Typical Applications

  • Trace analysis of metals in water
  • Cleanliness validation of wash samples
  • Trace elements for pharmaceutical applications
  • Metallic elements in wear testing fluids
  • Isotopic identification, fingerprinting and tracking, e.g. C12 / C14 ratios
  • Organo metals in seawater samples.

New Application

Isotope Dilution Analysis

This technique involves spiking samples with a known concentration of a specific isotope and then determining the concentration of the unknowns by the subsequent change in isotopic ratio.

The spiked isotope acts as an excellent internal and calibration standard because it has the same chemical properties as the analyte element. The isotope dilution technique can be used to analyze many materials, including: archaeological, blood, hair and plant samples.


  • Trace analysis (that can reach parts per trillion levels) of most elements in the periodic table, including halides (e.g. Cl, F, etc.) which less advanced ICP-MS equipment is unable to analyze. Halogens can therefore be analyzed at the same time and by the same technique as other elements, thus providing simpler and faster analysis times.
  • Isotope fingerprinting - by analyzing isotope ratios, such as 206Pb, 207Pb and 208Pb, the origin of the element can be determined, which in the case of Pb could be by the decay of 235U
  • There is potentially no need to use separate Ion Chromatography (IC) techniques to analyze for anions as many anions can now be analyzed by ICP-MS
  • Organic (carbon based) material analysis - by adjusting the O2 / Ar gas mix of the plasma flame, organic compounds can be introduced. This means that samples containing organic material (e.g. solvents) can be handled; hence enabling trace element analysis of such materials.


  • A high Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) tolerance - a robust plasma system means that ‘dirtier samples’ than in the past can be analyzed
  • An Orthogonal Detector System (ODS) achieves an 11 orders of magnitude dynamic range, from parts per trillion to % levels - a greater range of samples can be analyzed without dilution and the associated errors that can occur
  • Increased ion transmission and lower background noise provides improved signal to noise ratios for enhanced trace level detection limits.

Typical Industries using ICP-MS

  • Healthcare, including pharmaceutical
  • Orthopedic implant manufacturers
  • Nuclear
  • Food contact products
  • Nanoparticle users.



ICP-MS - At a Glance

  • Information: Trace elemental analysis of solutions by ionisation and mass separation
  • Sample Size: Limited only by the requirement to digest the samples
  • Detection Limits: ppt
  • Elements Detected: Most of the periodic table including halides
  • Data Output: Elemental concentrations, isotope ratios, particle size


» Testing & analysis techniques home