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Fundamental investigations of high-resolution LA-ICPMS: Fast Imaging – Resolution, Sensitivity, and Time (FIRST) (FIRST)
Start date: Jun 1, 2014, End date: May 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Laser ablation–inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA–ICPMS) is a robust, sensitive, and wide-dynamic-range micro-analytical technique for the spatially resolved determination of elemental composition. In LA–ICPMS, a pulsed laser beam removes (ablates) minute quantities of solid sample, which are transferred online to an ICPMS for elemental and/or isotopic analysis. When combined with precise sample positioning, LA–ICPMS can generate two- or even three-dimensional maps of element-abundance maps across a sample surface. However, conventional ICPMS instruments only measure ions of one mass-to-charge value (m/z) and, in combination with the transient nature of LA signals, this limits the precision and accuracy of multi-elemental LA-ICPMS. Additionally, commercial LA cells are designed to distribute the ablated analyte over a period of several seconds to deliver pseudo steady-state analytical signals; these long residence times increase measurement time and limit spatial resolution. In this project, I will combine recently developed fast-washout LA-cell technology with a new ICP–time-of-flight mass spectrometer (ICP–TOFMS) developed in the Günther lab at ETH Zurich. The LA cell temporally compresses and concentrates ablated aerosol into a narrow plug, which improves signal-to-noise ratio, and delivers it into the ICP–TOFMS for rapid simultaneous and complete elemental mass-spectrum generation (1 spectrum every 33 µs). Fast-flow LA–ICP–TOFMS overcomes the limitations of sequential-acquisition MS approaches, and can be used to produce high-resolution elemental images with measurement speeds two orders of magnitude faster than conventional systems. Current ICP–TOFMS sensitivities should allow trace-element mapping with resolution approaching one micrometer; this resolution will enable novel measurements of both micro-scale geological features such as fluid inclusions and zircon domains and sub-cellular elemental distributions in biological tissues.
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