Studies of artificial mass bias in isotopic measurements by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
Abstract (Summary)Mass spectrometry, and especially inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), suffers heavily from mass bias, or instrumental mass discrimination. The nett result of this effect is the preferential transmission, most often of heavier ions through the mass spectrometer. Most work regarding this phenomenon in ICP-MS dates back quite far, and has been interpreted in terms of the space-charge effect. This means that Coulombic forces acting on the beam of positively charged particles extracted from the ICP result in greater dissipation of lighter, and hence more mobile ions from the beam axis. In this work the importance of the space-charge effect as a universal explanation for mass bias is challenged by the results of high precision measurements of isotope ratios. Other than considering some commonly known sources of isotope ratio measurement bias, a not previously considered mechanism of isotopic fractionation has been investigated, i.e. diffusion in solution. It was established that, indeed, diffusion does lead to isotopic fractionation in solution, and although this is a long term process, may contribute to the minor isotopic variations observed in certain aquatic environments. Furthermore it was established that spectral interferences of argone oxide ions could be discerned from the ions of iron using high resolution ICP-MS, thus eliminating this potential source of artificial fractionation. Most significant was the discovery that the extent of mass bias varied throughout the volume of the plasma, and was further affected by sample characteristics, such as analyte concentration and acid strength. This identifies the plasma itself as the major source of instrumental mass discrimination. Varying the sampling position, i.e. the point at which ions are extracted from the plasma, not only affected the measured isotope ratios, but also the precision of such measurements. From these results, it is not recommended to measure at the sampling position providing maximum signal, since the variability in the isotope ratio is also at its' maximum there. Instead, the ions should be sampled from a point below the maximum, where the stability of the ratios will be better.
School:Luleå tekniska universitet
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2004