Femtosecond laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry: fundamentals and capabilities for depth profiling analysis

Mass Spectrom Rev. 2008 Nov-Dec;27(6):609-23. doi: 10.1002/mas.20180.


Laser ablation coupled to inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry has become a versatile and powerful analytical method for direct solid analysis. The applicability has been demonstrated on a wide variety of samples, where major, minor, and trace element concentrations or isotope ratio determinations have been of interest. The pros and cons of UV-nsec laser ablation have been studied in detail, and indicate that aerosol generation, aerosol transport, and aerosol excitation-ionization within the ICP contribute to fractionation effects, which prevent this method from a more universal application to all matrices and all elements. Recent progresses in IR-fs and UV-fs laser ablation coupled to ICP-MS have been reported, which increase the inter-matrix and multi-element quantification capabilities of this method. These fundamental improvements in LA-ICP-MS are of significant importance for entering new applications in material science and related research fields. In particular, because coatings (conducting and non-conducting) consist of single or multilayers of various elemental composition and of different thickness (nm-mm range), significant progress in the field of depth profiling with fs-laser ablation can be expected. Therefore, in-depth profile analysis of polymers, semiconductors, and metal sample investigations, using ultra-fast laser ablation for sampling and the currently achievable figures of merit, are discussed. In this review manuscript, the enhanced capabilities of fs-LA-ICP-MS for direct solid sampling are highlighted, and it is discussed about current methods used for quantitative analysis and depth profiling, the ablation process of UV-ns and UV-fs, the influence of the laser beam profile, aerosol structure and transport efficiency, as well as the influence of the ICP-MS (e.g., vaporization and ionization efficiency in the plasma, and type of mass analyzer).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / trends*


  • Proteome