Surface Coating / Alfa Chemistry

Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry for Surface Trace Metal Analysis


Trace metal analysis detects, identifies, and quantifies low-level metals in a variety of materials and samples, which is critical for coating product development and quality control. Detecting trace metals in samples can also aid in the identification of pollutants and provide valuable information for process optimization and chemical product formulation development.

When working at the trace level, the analytical instrument's quality, performance, and sensitivity are crucial. Alfa Chemistry's scientists are experts at using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry to accurately quantify trace elements and diverse matrices (ICP-MS). Trace metal analysis services provide comprehensive quality assurance for coated products, with detection thresholds of parts per million (ppm), parts per billion (ppb), and parts per trillion (ppt).

Learn About ICP-MS

ICP-MS is a technique for determining low concentration (range: ppb = parts per billion = µg/l) and ultra-low concentration elements (range: ptt = parts per trillion = nanograms/liter). The atomic elements are guided through the plasma source, where they are ionized. Then, these ions are classified according to their mass. The advantages of ICP-MS technology over Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) or Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrscopy (ICP-OES ) are: extremely low detection limit; large linear range; possibility of detecting element isotope composition.

Cross section schematic of an ICP-MS.Fig 1. Cross section schematic of an ICP-MS. (Wilschefski S. C, et al. 2019)

High Resolution ICP-MS of Alfa Chemistry

In general, ICP-OES is the chosen measuring method for trace metal analysis. However, in cases where ultra-trace quantification is required, ICP-OES cannot provide the necessary sensitivity. ICP-MSdetection are required at this time. Furthermore, the traditional quadrupole-based ICP-MS measurement may be interfered by the spectrum, making them difficult or even inaccurate.

Alfa Chemistry uses high-resolution ICPMS or magnetic sector ICPMS to detect, identify, and quantify heavy analytes in samples to tackle these difficulties. This high-end analytical capacity allows for a precise measurement of ultra-trace metal concentration in a variety of materials, which is useful in situations where ultra-trace metal contamination is a concern.

We use a variety of sample preparation technologies, including microwave digestion technology, that are most appropriate for relevant materials. We have experience developing and validating methods for a variety of sample types. We can also provide specialized single-element or multi-element analysis services, as well as heavy metal multi-analyte analysis packages (mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and lead).

Cross section schematic of an ICP-MS.

The benefits of using our high resolution ICP-MS analysis technology include but are not limited to:

  • Multi-element analysis across the periodic table
  • A certain matrix's detection limit is as low as one part in a trillion.
  • Experiments in a clean room to reduce pollution in the environment

How to Deliver Samples

  • Solid materials should be destroyed solely with nitric acid; keep the nitric acid concentration below 10%, preferably around 1%; or, if necessary, use HNO3/H2O2.
  • To retain the metal in solution, the sample should be acidified, preferably with 1-5 percent HNO3.
  • Samples should be placed in 12 to 15 mL test tubes.
  • The sample's salt content should be kept below 0.2 percent.
  • There should be no organic solvents in the sample.
  • Indicate the expected approximate concentration of the element to be evaluated in the sample as much as possible.
  • Although ICP-MS may be used to assess the isotope ratio in enrichment experiments, it is not ideal for studying differences in isotope natural abundance.


  • Wilschefski S. C, et al. (2019). "Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry: Introduction to Analytical Aspects." Clin Biochem Rev. 40(3): 115-133.

Our products and services are for research use only and cannot be used for any clinical purpose.

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