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Possibilities and problems with ICP-MS in the iron and steel industry

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) has become a powerful analytical technique especially for the determination of trace amounts of metals. The applicability of ICP-MS to the analysis of steel samples has been investigated. The analyte ion response can be interfered by several other ions of the same mass, firstly by polyatomic ions formed by the elements of the plasmagas, The surrounding air and the chemicals for dissolving and digesting, (ie argon ions, argon nitride ions, argon oxide ions, chlorine oxides ions) secondly by polyatomic ions formed by the analyte ion. It is distributed among several ionic species, the singly charged ion being wanted (E+) and the polyatomic ones like monooxide ions (EO+), hydroxide ions (EOH+), analyte argon ions (EAr+), floride ions (EF+), chloride ions (EC1+), and nitride ions (EN+). The interferences may be minimized by:
investigating the polyatomic ions formed by the matrix element sand selecting isotopes free of interferences;
changing the operational conditions;
running the samples under different measuring methods.

The sample analysed were British Chemical Standards (BCS) Standard Reference Materials (low alloy steel) as well as European Certified Reference Materials (ECRM) (high purity ion and highly alloyed steels). Trace element amounts (ie lead, arsenic, boron, antimony, tin, cobalt, copper) as well as higher concentrated element amounts in highly alloyed steels (ie chromium, molybdenum) can be analysed using matrix matched standard solutions using appropriate settings of the operational instrument parameters.

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