Articles | Volume 4, issue 1
Geosci. Instrum. Method. Data Syst., 4, 75–80, 2015
Geosci. Instrum. Method. Data Syst., 4, 75–80, 2015

Research article 17 Mar 2015

Research article | 17 Mar 2015

Alkali element background reduction in laser ICP-MS

C. W. Magee Jr.1,2 and C. A. Norris1,3 C. W. Magee Jr. and C. A. Norris
  • 1Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 2600, Australia
  • 2Australian Scientific Instruments, 111-113 Gladstone St. Fyshwick ACT 2609, Australia
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX13AN, UK

Abstract. Alkali backgrounds in laser ablation ICP-MS analyses can be enhanced by electron-induced ionisation of alkali contamination on the skimmer cone, reducing effective detection limits for these elements. Traditionally, this problem is addressed by isolating analyses of high-alkali materials onto a designated cone set, or by operating the ICP-MS in a "soft extraction" mode, which reduces the energy of electrons repelled into the potentially contaminated sampling cone by the extraction field. Here we present a novel approach, where we replace the traditional alkali glass tuning standards with synthetic low-alkali glass reference materials. Using this vitreous tuning solution, we find that this approach reduces the amount of alkali contamination produced, halving backgrounds for the heavy alkali elements without any change to analytical procedures. Using segregated cones is still the most effective method for reducing lithium backgrounds, but since the procedures are complimentary, both can easily be applied to the routine operations of an analytical lab.