Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) describes a technique where a radio frequency coupled plasma is connected to a mass spectrometer. These instruments excel at determining concentrations of most elements of the periodic table but the usual purpose of analysis is determining trace element concentrations. The sample passes through the plasma and is ‘perfectly ionized’, then focused through lenses, quadrupoles, which act to separate ions on the basis of mass/charge ratios, and then analysed in an electron multiplier. By changing voltages on the lenses and the quadrupoles, the collected mass can be changed at a rate of a new mass per 1 ms. Broad ranges of elements and isotopes, from Li to U, can be analysed in 1 routine. Certain specialised instrument approaches enable precise isotope ratio work (see options on the right hand side).
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