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Matrix effects during phosphorus determination with quadrupole inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

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A quadrupole inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer was evaluated for use in the detection of phosphorus. The influences of nitric acid and methanol (simulating the composition of a sample solution after nitric acid digestion) on phosphorus determination were studied using two different measuring methods at different plasma conditions: detection of phosphorus ions at m/z 31 and detection of phosphorus oxide ions at m/z 47. The existence of polyatomic interferences at m/z 31 and 47 was explored. Nitric acid and methanol are shown to be the sources of polyatomic ions and therefore cause poorer detection limits. Better detection limits were achieved in such matrices when phosphorus was detected as 31P+. The presence of methanol improves the system sensitivity towards phosphorus sevenfold; however, this positive effect is hindered by the high background signal due to carbon-based polyatomic ions. For samples with an organic matrix an appropriate mineralization procedure should be applied (high excess of nitric acid and high temperature) to quantitatively oxidize organic compounds to carbon dioxide, which is easily removed from the sample, in order to achieve correct results.

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The authors thank the Slovenian Research Agency (S1-104-004/19054/2001, P1-0034) and the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport of the Republic of Croatia (0098132) for financial support, Mrs. M. Moder (Petrol) for engine oil reference material and Dr. J. Hinrichs (Thermo) for assistance with SF-ICPMS.

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Correspondence to Miroslav Kovačevič.

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Kovačevič, M., Goessler, W., Mikac, N. et al. Matrix effects during phosphorus determination with quadrupole inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Anal Bioanal Chem 383, 145–151 (2005).

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  • Quadrupole inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
  • Phosphorus
  • Matrix effects
  • Polyatomic interferences
  • Signal enhancement