Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP/MS), identified by The Scientist as one of the ‘hottest’ fields of science in 1987 (June 13, 1988, page 20), is offering chemists unrivaled capabilities for determining elemental sample constituents. Conceived of less than 10 years ago, ICP/MS promises to increase the use of trace element chemistry in fields as diverse as geochronology and geochemistry, human metabolism and nutrition, pollutant speciation and transport, and even nuclear waste monitoring. With sensitive, multi-element, and isotopic analysis capabilities applicable to most elements in the periodic table, the technique may be as close as trace analysts can come to finding an analysis tool that is a “panacea.”

Uniform Ionization

As its name implies, ICP/MS combines the use of an inductively coupled plasma and a mass spectrometer in one system. An argon plasma is used as an ion source, while the spectrometer serves as a mass-selective (and hence element-and isotope-selective)...

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