The particle size distribution of laser ablation aerosols are a function of the wavelength, the energy density and the pulse duration of the laser, as well as the sample matrix and the gas environment. Further the size of the particles affects the vaporization and ionization efficiency in the inductively coupled plasma (ICP). Some matrices produce large particles, which are not completely vaporized and ionized in the ICP. The previous work has shown that analytical results such as matrix-independent calibration, accuracy and precision can be significantly influenced by the particle sizes of the particles. To minimize the particle size related incomplete conversion of the sample to ions in the ICP a particle separation device was developed, which allows effective particle separation using centrifugal forces in a thin coiled tube. In this device, the particle cut-off size is varied by changing the number of turns in the coil, as well as by changing the gas flow and the tube diameter. The interaction of the laser with the different samples leads to varying particle size distributions. When carrying out quantitative analysis with non-matrix matched calibration reference materials, it was shown that different particle cut-off sizes were required depending on the ICP conditions and the instrument used for analysis. Various sample materials were investigated in this study to demonstrate the applicability of the device. For silicate matrices, the capability of the ICP to produce ions was significantly reduced for particles larger than 0.5 μm, and was dependent on the element monitored. To reduce memory effects caused by the separated particles, a washout procedure was developed, which additionally allowed the analysis of the trapped particles. These results clearly demonstrate the very important particle size dependent ICP-MS signal response and the potential of the described particle size based separator for the reduction of ICP induced elemental fractionation.
- Laser ablation
- Particle size