Standard Article

Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometry in Environmental Analysis

Environment: Water and Waste

  1. Steven F. Durrant

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a0838

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Durrant, S. F. 2006. Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometry in Environmental Analysis. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. State University of Campinas, Campinas, Brazil

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Soon after the invention of the laser by Maiman, laser pulses were used for excitation and ionization of sample material for inorganic analysis by optical emission spectrometry (OES) or mass spectrometry (MS). This direct approach is complicated by the complexity of the laser–sample interaction and the need to optimize simultaneously the sampling and excitation (or ionization) steps. Use of a laser for solids sampling with separate atomization and excitation in an inductively coupled plasma (ICP) retains the advantages of direct solids analysis, including spatially resolved concentration data, and adds those attributable to the ICP, including wide elemental coverage, a linear dynamic range of six or more orders of magnitude, and excellent detection limits (DLs). The resulting techniques, denominated laser ablation/inductively coupled plasma/optical emission spectrometry (LA/ICP/OES) and laser ablation/inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (LA/ICP/MS), are based on recording of relative emission intensities or ion count rates, respectively. Both methods are treated here, but emphasis is given to LA/ICP/MS, a rapidly developing technique in use for less than 15 years, which in addition to offering DLs typically 103 times lower than those obtained by LA/ICP/OES, also offers isotope ratio analysis. Hardware, analytical procedures, performance, and prospects are addressed. The power and limitations of the methods are illustrated by environmental applications, including the analysis of metals, soils, rocks, and plastics.