When analysts need to determine which components make up something, they frequently employ a technique known as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS, or ICP Mass Spec). ICP-MS is an elemental analytical method which measures elements instead of molecules and compounds measured by LC/ MS and GC/ MS. The ICP-MS technique employs an argon (Ar) plasma – the ICP – to convert the sample into ions, which are then analyzed with a mass spectrometer. Because ICP-MS has lower detection limits, it is a preferable option for trace element analysis.

The ion source (the ICP), a mass spectrometer (MS) – typically a scanning quadrupole mass filter – and a detector comprise an ICP-MS system. Because the ICP is at atmospheric pressure and the MS and detector are in a vacuum chamber, an ICP-MS needs a vacuum pump, a vacuum interface, and electrostatic ion “lenses” to concentrate the ions through the system. In addition, modern ICP-MS systems often include a device or technique for resolving spectral interferences. Keep reading to understand the most important things to consider while acquiring a proper instrument, such as the Agilent ICP MS instrument.

Interference removal

Interference removal guarantees that reliable findings are obtained consistently. Spectral interferences are frequently the most problematic. This happens whenever a polyatomic analyte or an analyte possessing many charges has the same mass-to-charge ratio as the analyte to be analyzed. There are 2 kinds of interference removal systems: collision reaction cell (CRC) technology or high resolution (HR) technology. CRC is the most commonly used technique in quadrupole ICP-MS. There are two major categories: single quadrupole and triple quadrupole (TQ). The former is often used CRC in conjunction with an inert gas like hydrogen. These methods are more prevalent and less expensive. TQ-ICP-MS devices typically employ reactive gases, allowing for more precise interference elimination. That provides reduced detection limits (LODs) but at a higher cost. HR technology takes a whole different perspective. This technology utilizes minor changes in nominal mass to isolate the analyte of interest and the interference physically. It is much clearer than CRC technology, but it is more expensive, and it is more likely to be utilized in metrology and precise applications requiring ultralow detection limits.

Signal-to-noise ratio

Because of the employment of modern ion optics technology and a high-energy plasma source, ICP-MS systems are exceptionally sensitive. This great sensitivity allows for the detection of extremely low element concentrations. In ICP-MS, the analyte background is equally significant and must be minimized to achieve the best LODs. Low LODs are more challenging (and expensive) to achieve but are frequently required by regulatory systems. Choosing an ICP-MS with the ideal signal (sensitivity) to noise (background) ratio is critical to meeting or surpassing regulatory criteria.


Another important consideration is speed, as high throughput typically translates to cost-cutting. ICP-MS systems are quick, with average sample analysis times of 2 to 3 minutes. However, characteristics such as kinetic energy discrimination in a single mode and discrete sampling valves might result in sample analysis periods of 1 to 2 minutes.

You can acquire a proper instrument like the Agilent ICP MS instrument if you adhere to the above mentioned considerations. However, to avoid obtaining an instrument that may disappoint you, always buy from trustworthy and licensed sources.