Alkali element background reduction in laser ICP-MS
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.