Automated in situ trace element analysis of silicate materials by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

ZX Chen
D Canil
HP Longerich


This paper describes the automated in situ trace element analysis of solid materials by laser ablation (LA) inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). A compact computer-controlled solid state Nd:YAG Merchantek(TM) EO UV laser ablation (LA) system has been coupled with the high sensitivity VG PQII S ICP-MS. A two-directional communication was interfaced in-house between the ICP-MS and the LA via serial RS-232 port. Each LA-ICP-MS analysis at a defined point includes a 60 s pre-ablation delay, a 60 s ablation, and a 90 s flush delay. The execution of each defined time setting by LA was corresponding to the ICP-MS data acquisition allowing samples to be run in automated cycle sequences like solution auto-sampler ICP-MS analysis. Each analytical cycle consists of four standards, one control reference material, and 15 samples, and requires about 70 min. Data produced by Time Resolved Analysis (TRA) from ICP-MS were later reduced off-line by in-house written software. Twenty-two trace elements from four reference materials (NIST SRM 613, and fused glass chips of BCR-2, SY-4, and G-2) were determined by the automated LA-ICP-MS method. NIST SRM 610 or NIST SRM 613 was used as an external calibration standard, and Ca as an internal standard to correct for drift, differences in transport efficiency and sampling yield. Except for Zr and I-If in G-2, relative standard deviations for all other elements are less than 10%. Results compare well with the data reported from literature with average limits of detection from 1 ng g(-1) to 455 ng g(-1) and less than 100 ng g(-1) for most trace elements.