Elemental analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS), Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), and Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES)

The work horses of Origin Analytical’s elemental analysis laboratory are our two Thermo Scientific XSERIES 2 ICP-MS and iCAP 7000 Series ICP-OES.  These tools are commonly used to analyse elemental concentrations within rock samples, however, they may also be used for the analysis of a wide variety of sample types, both solid and liquids.  Please contact us if you would like any further information.

Our standard analytical protocol involves using a flux fusion methodology to turn the sample into a liquid suitable for analysis with our ICP-MS and ICP-OES instruments, although we are also able to carry out acid digestion, leachate and laser ablation analysis as required. The liquid is introduced into the ICP through a nebulizer in the form of an aerosol which is then ionized in the machine’s plasma.  At this point the two types of machine differ on how they analyse the composition of the sample.

The ICP-MS detects the mass of the ions hitting its detector and provides a mass spectrum for the sample, with the intensity of each peak in the spectrum being directly proportional to the concentration within the sample.  This concentration is quantified by comparing the intensities of the mass spectrum to known calibration standards.

The ICP-OES differs in that it measures the effect of the aerosol on the plasma itself.  When the aerosol is introduced to the plasma the elements contained within it loose electrons and give off radiation with wavelengths characteristic to the element itself.  The optical spectrometer detects this radiated energy, and through comparison with the intensities of known calibration standards, quantifies the elemental abundance within the sample.

By analyzing the sample on both ICP-MS and ICP-OES it is possible to quantify the abundance of ~50 elements including major, trace, and the Rare Earth Elements.  If you would like sample to be run on one individual instrument, the ICP-MS provides a analysis of trace and rare earth elements to ppt detection limits, whereas the ICP-OES provides a rapid analysis of major and some trace elements to mid ppb detection. Data from our ICP systems are routinely submitted for the GeoPT programme for the characterisation of new International Rock Standards. Reports of our GeoPT results can be supplied on request.

We are also able to offer a Laser ablation ICP-MS (LA-ICP-MS) service where a laser is focused onto the surface of a solid sample and the fine particles ablated by this are introduces directly into the plasma.  Our main use for this technique at Origin Analytical is to analyse zircons for their U and Pb isotopic concentrations and so date the age of the zircon.   We also have experience analyzing a wide variety of other minerals for their elemental and isotopic compositions, as well as other matrices (e.g. tree rings in fossilized wood.

All samples are quality controlled with matrix matching international standards to ensure all data quality is achieved to the highest standards. We are also flexible and will adapted methodologies to meet any specific requirements you may have.