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Finding New Ways with ICP-MS: Leverage Triple Quadrupole Interference Removal and Save Time

Team TFS
Team TFS

shoes_110920Like many others in the past few months, I have been tasked to find new solutions to problems I did not realize existed. For example, working from my home office instead of going to the Thermo Fisher Scientific Center of Excellence for Mass Spectrometry in Bremen, Germany.  However, it didn’t take me long to discover the multiple advantages of not spending my time on crowded regional trains and trams. Instead, I learned quickly that I could use this time differently, and certainly now appreciate being able to join a conference call with a cup of coffee in hand on my terrace.

In recent years, there has been a similarly tremendous change in technology for the analysis of trace elements using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). The advent of triple quadrupole ICP-MS (TQ-ICP-MS) has provided a more selective alternative for interference removal than single quadrupole based (SQ-ICP-MS) equipped with collision/reaction cell (CRC) technology.  TQ-ICP-MS makes fully eliminating false positives on critical elements such as As, Se, Cd and Hg significantly easier, removing the need to re-run samples where results have been called into question. If you want to learn more about how interference removal is achieved in ICP-MS please check out this post from my colleague Simon Nelms.

Despite the rapid development of commercially-viable TQ-ICP-MS systems, this technology is still perceived as too complex a technique to be suitable for a busy laboratory performing the analysis of foodstuffs or wastewaters, for example. This is due to the belief that triple quad ICP-MS instruments mean not only higher instrument purchase costs, but also the need for more bench space and the complicated and costly requirement of reaction cell gases, such as ammonia (NH3), which is toxic, corrosive and flammable. In addition, there’s a perception that all this (apparent) complexity comes at the price of longer analysis times, and some managers and analysts may question whether the improvement in data quality is worth the extra effort for their already challenged high sample throughput laboratories.

In fact, the truth is that laboratories performing high volume contract testing can benefit significantly from TQ-ICP-MS technology without the pain described above. The latest addition to the Thermo Scientific™ iCAP™ Qnova Series ICP-MS instrument family, the Thermo Scientific™ iCAP™ TQe ICP-MS, has been specifically designed to meet the needs and requirements of busy laboratories in applied analytical services. By combining a true triple quadrupole  mass analyzer design with the most effective CRC gases, helium (He) and oxygen (O2), the system offers superior interference removal (for example, elimination of false-positive results for As and Se caused by doubly charged rare-earth ions) and enables time savings to be simultaneously achieved. As well as being able to rapidly switch between optimal operation modes with He and O2, it’s also possible for many applications to run the iCAP TQe in O2 only mode, allowing the fastest possible interference-free analysis. In this mode, as well as securely eliminating all potential interferences on key analytes (there are difficult polyatomic interferences on cadmium or mercury, too!), equivalent (and in many cases even improved) detection limits for all elements usually run using kinetic energy discrimination can be achieved. For an example of the power of this single, O2 only TQ-ICP-MS operation mode, please check out this application note, demonstrating the analysis of 37 elements in 18 different food samples.

Find out more about the new way of trace metal quantification with the iCAP TQe ICP-MS and see how this can help to increase data quality and improve your productivity! If you are uncertain about how many of your common analytes would benefit from TQ-ICP-MS technology, please check out our TQ-ICP-MS toolkit.