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ICP-MS for testing drinking water quality

What is ICP-MS?

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is an analytical testing method that can be used to measure element concentrations at trace levels. Generally, ICP-MS is known for its ability to detect many metals and non-metals in liquid samples at extremely low concentrations, making it particularly appealing in applications requiring high levels of sensitivity or with strict compliance requirements. Furthermore, it can detect different isotopes of the same element in a sample, making it a valuable tool for isotopic labelling.

Although many labs still use atomic emission or atomic absorption spectroscopy, ICP-MS has greater speed, precision and sensitivity. This has led to many analytical labs making the switch in recent years and ICP-MS is becoming an increasingly popular choice for many sensitive test applications, including drinking water quality testing.

The PlasmaQuant MS ICP-MS

The PlasmaQuant MS ICP-MS (close up)

Using ICP-MS for water testing

There are several benefits to using ICP-MS for drinking water quality monitoring. First, ICP-MS is a sensitive method that can detect even trace levels of contaminants. This is important because many contaminants, such as heavy metals, can be harmful to human health even at low levels. Second, ICP-MS is an accurate method. This is important because it ensures that the results of the analysis are reliable.

Third, ICP-MS is a versatile method. It can be used to measure a wide range of elements, including metals, metalloids, and non-metals. This makes it a valuable tool for monitoring the quality of all types of water, including drinking water, wastewater and surface water.

To conduct the test, first, the sample must be acidified to dissolve any metals that may be present. The sample is then diluted to a known concentration. The diluted sample is then introduced into the ICP-MS instrument.

The ICP-MS instrument creates a high-temperature plasma that ionizes the elements in the sample. The ions are then separated according to their mass-to-charge ratio. The concentration of each element is then determined by measuring the intensity of its mass signal.

The fast, multi-element capability of ICP-MS allows large numbers of samples to be routinely analysed. While the ability to accurately quantify from ultra-trace to major levels means toxic metals, minerals and other contaminants can be determined within a single measurement.

PlasmaQuant PQMS ICP-MS

Analytik Jena’s PlasmaQuant MS series provides ICP-MS instruments that surpass expectations in terms of accuracy, precision and speed, while meeting all the criteria for sample management, durability and regulatory compliance.

Robust plasma conditions suitable for drinking water analysis are achieved with only 7.5 L/min of coolant gas. The integrated collision reaction cell provides fast and effective removal of spectroscopic interferences using the optimum collision or reaction gas for the job. Allowing the lowest possible detection limits to be achieved for each element. The high pressure/low volume reaction zone also means switching between gas modes takes only seconds.

The PlasmaQuant range of ICP-MS instruments has the lowest running costs of any comparable ICP-MS system and the smallest physical footprint. The instruments can handle difficult sample matrices using built-in aerosol dilution, including the ability to directly analyse organic solvents.

Furthermore, the PlasmaQuant ICP-MS allows users to conduct ICP-MS experiments using half the argon consumption of a typical instrument. A typical inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) instrument uses approximately 15 to 20 L/min of gaseous argon between the plasma, nebuliser, auxiliary and purge flows. This means a typical cylinder of argon will only last for around 10 working hours.

From a financial perspective, using the PlasmaQuant ICP-MS means that labs that regularly use ICP-MS will save at least £5,000 a year, but this can be much higher in many cases. This is in addition to helping labs meet their sustainability goals by cutting ongoing utilities consumption.

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