ICP-MS Trace Element Analysis

Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) is a powerful inorganic technique that resolves the abundance of many chemical elements in a wide variety of sample media, to extremely low detection limits and wide concentration ranges.

The driving force behind this high performing and versatile technique is the high temperature argon plasma, which is hot enough to excite most elements within the periodic table into ions. These charged particles are then focussed into a tight beam within the instrument and filtered by mass:charge to provide rapid (near simultaneous) determinations. The Trace Element ICP-MS Small Research Facility has two ICP-MS instruments, one with a magnetic-sector mass spectrometer and another with a quadrupole mass spectrometer. Both offer rapid scanning, high sensitvity and excellent resolution and detection capabilities.

ThermoFinnigan Element 2 ICP-MS


Earth Science’s Thermo Element 2

  • Magnetic-Sector ICP-MS with reverse Nier Johnson geometry
  • Used for high resolution and high sensitivity trace element analysis (see which elements can be measured and the likely resolution required here)
  • Ideal for ultra-trace measurements and for determinations of elements troubled by spectral interferences (see what detection limits can be acheived here)
  • Fully automated with capability to measure up to 80 samples in one run*
  • Can be coupled to our ESI Apex Omega desolvator for a further boost in sensitivity and reduction in spectral interference

*Assuming sample solutions are prepared in 2mL micro centrifuge tubes

PerkinElmer NexION 350D ICP-MS

Earth Science’s PerkinElmer NexION 350D. Photo by Ian Wallman

  • Quadrupole ICP-MS with universal cell to remove interference [uses NH3 for dynamic reactions (DRC) and He for kinetic energy discrimination (KED)]
  • Coupled with ESI PrepFAST autosampler and autodiluter
  • Flow injection capability using the ESI PrepFAST FIAS- expands capability to directly measure samples with total dissolved solids concentrations >2000ppm
  • Ability to be hyphenated with the ESI seaFAST ion exchange system (also owned by the facility)- removes group 1 and 2 elements (notably Na, Ca and Mg) from seawaters to enable preconcentration of transition metals/REEs without the need to dilute
  • Can be coupled with our ESI Apex Omega desolvator for a further boost in sensitivity and reduction in polyatomic interference
  • Enables fast scanning at a fixed low resolution
  • Fully automated with capability to measure up to 240 samples in one run**

Time series plot of trace elements measured by seaFAST and NexION 350D in the NASS-7 seawater CRM

Time series plot (in seconds) from the flow injection measurement of the Arispe iron meteorite (Holdship et. al., 2017)

NexION autosampler. Photo by Ian Wallman.

**Assuming sample solutions are prepared in 15mL centrifuge tubes and sample measurement times are <2 minutes

For more information about ICP-MS please click here

Trace Element Laboratory

The Trace Element Small Research Facility has fully equipped laboratories and has the capacity and expertise to prepare samples for analysis from a variety of earth systems (e.g. terrestrial and meteoritic rock digests; fluvial, pore and sea waters; leached and digested filters, and marine biological samples). All reagents (including certified calibration standards and quality check standards) used to prepare samples for analysis are provided.


Trace element preparation laboratory

Sample types from other sciences are also welcome for measurement. Please contact Phil Holdship for more information.

For more information please contact:

Mr Phil Holdship
Email: philip.holdship@earth.ox.ac.uk
Tel: 01865 282063