Although it might seem longer, quadrupole ICP-MS technology has only existed since the early 1980s. What we recognise as ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry) started life as the combination of a capillary arc plasma source interfaced with a quadrupole mass spectrometer by Alan Gray at the University of Surrey, UK, in 1975 (see Gray, A. L., 1975, Analyst, 100, 289-299). This early work subsequently led to collaboration between Alan Gray and Sam Houk et al. at the Ames Laboratory of Iowa State University which produced the world’s first ICP-MS instrument and accompanying literature paper in 1980 (see Houk et al., Anal. Chem. 1980, 52, 2283-2289). Commercialisation of the technology followed quickly with the first system arriving on the market just three years after the publication of Sam Houk’s seminal paper. These early instruments were the size of a small house, with their RF valve arrays, oil diffusion vacuum pumps and manual gas flow and lens voltage tuning, but they showed the promise of the technique in terms of enhanced detection capability, linear dynamic range and simple spectra.
Fast forward 37 years, and what we have now are compact, bench top instruments with solid state electronics and turbomolecular vacuum pumps, with sensitivities in excess of 100x more what could be achieved in the 1980s. At the same time, the background counts of today’s instruments are around 100x lower, leading to signal-to-background performance in excess of 10,000x better than those early instruments. Today’s instruments provide comprehensive autotuning and performance verification routines, advanced interference removal capabilities and sample-to-result workflows so simple that the operator need only load up the autosampler, enter the sample list (or import it from their LIMS) and press go.
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This year, we have taken the next step in the evolution of our ICP-MS portfolio with the introduction this week of a new triple quadrupole instrument, the iCAP™ TQ ICP-MS, at the European Winter Conference on Plasma Spectrochemistry in Sankt Anton am Arlberg, Austria. The iCAP TQ ICP-MS, which is based on the same platform as our iCAP RQ ICP-MS single quadrupole system, combines advanced interference removal capabilities with exceptional ease of use. Analyses that challenge single quadrupole ICP-MS instruments, such as ultralow detection of As and Se in samples containing rare earth elements, Se in Ni alloys, Cd in Zr matrices and Ti in biological research samples can be performed with the iCAP TQ ICP-MS with far better accuracy and much lower detection limits. In common with our iCAP RQ ICP-MS and iCAP 7000 Plus Series ICP-OES, the ICAP TQ ICP-MS is operated by the Qtegra™ ISDS software suite. With the iCAP TQ ICP-MS, Qtegra includes our unique Reaction Finder software tool, which revolutionises method development for triple quadrupole ICP-MS. Reaction Finder automatically loads the optimum isotope, collision/reaction gas and ion lens voltages for your application with just a single click on the element you want to measure, saving valuable time and removing all of the complexity of method set up.
If you’d like to learn more about what the iCAP TQ ICP-MS can do for your elemental analysis, head to our hypersite or take a look at www.thermofisher.com/TQ-ICP-MS. For full details of our complete range of trace elemental analysis solutions, from atomic absorption spectrometry to multi-collector ICP-MS, head to www.thermofisher.com/tea.