Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP MS): a versatile tool

J Mass Spectrom. 2007 Apr;42(4):419-27. doi: 10.1002/jms.1206.


Inductively coupled plasma (ICP) mass spectrometry (MS) is routinely used in many diverse research fields such as earth, environmental, life and forensic sciences and in food, material, chemical, semiconductor and nuclear industries. The high ion density and the high temperature in a plasma provide an ideal atomizer and element ionizer for all types of samples and matrices introduced by a variety of specialized devices. Outstanding properties such as high sensitivity (ppt-ppq), relative salt tolerance, compound-independent element response and highest quantitation accuracy lead to the unchallenged performance of ICP MS in efficiently detecting, identifying and reliably quantifying trace elements. The increasing availability of relevant reference compounds and high separation selectivity extend the molecular identification capability of ICP MS hyphenated to species-specific separation techniques. While molecular ion source MS is specialized in determining the structure of unknown molecules, ICP MS is an efficient and highly sensitive tool for target-element orientated discoveries of relevant and unknown compounds. This special-feature, tutorial article presents the principle and advantages of ICP MS, highlighting these using examples from recently published investigations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*