Evaluation of number concentration quantification by single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry: microsecond vs. millisecond dwell times

Abstract

The quality of the quantitative information in single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (SP-ICP-MS) depends directly on the number concentration of the nanoparticles in the sample analyzed, which is proportional to the flux of nanoparticles through the plasma. Particle number concentrations must be selected in accordance with the data acquisition frequency, to control the precision from counting statistics and the bias, which is produced by the occurrence of multiple-particle events recorded as single-particle events. With quadrupole mass spectrometers, the frequency of data acquisition is directly controlled by the dwell time. The effect of dwell times from milli- to microseconds (10 ms, 5 ms, 100 μs, and 50 μs) on the quality of the quantitative data has been studied. Working with dwell times in the millisecond range, precision figures about 5 % were achieved, whereas using microsecond dwell times, the suitable fluxes of nanoparticles are higher and precision was reduced down to 1 %; this was independent of the dwell time selected. Moreover, due to the lower occurrence of multiple-nanoparticle events, linear ranges are wider when dwell times equal to or shorter than 100 μs are used. A calculation tool is provided to determine the optimal concentration for any instrument or experimental conditions selected. On the other hand, the use of dwell times in the microsecond range reduces significantly the contribution of the background and/or the presence of dissolved species, in comparison with the use of millisecond dwell times. Although the use of dwell times equal to or shorter than 100 μs offers improved performance working in single-particle mode, the use of conventional dwell times (3–10 ms) should not be discarded, once their limitations are known.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank D.M. Escala (Group of Non-linear Physics, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain) for developing the MatLab programs for data processing.

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Correspondence to Francisco Laborda.

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Funding

This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, projects CTQ2012-38091-C02-01, CTQ2012-38091-C02-02, CTQ2015-68094-C2-1-R and CTQ2015-68094-C2-2-R.

Conflict of interest

The Syngistix™ Nano Application Module was provided by Perkin Elmer.

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Published in the topical collection Single-particle-ICP-MS Advances with guest editors Antonio R. Montoro Bustos and Michael R. Winchester.

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Abad-Álvaro, I., Peña-Vázquez, E., Bolea, E. et al. Evaluation of number concentration quantification by single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry: microsecond vs. millisecond dwell times. Anal Bioanal Chem 408, 5089–5097 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-016-9515-y

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Keywords

  • Single particle
  • SP-ICP-MS
  • Nanoparticle
  • Quantification
  • Number concentration