Inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is the technique of choice worldwide for trace elemental determinations because of its excellent ionization ability, low detection limits and fast analysis speeds. However, the ICP-MS still suffers from some disadvantages, such as spectral overlap and severe matrix effects. Matrix effects or interferences, partly arise from changes in the analyte transmission through the interfacial region between the ICP and mass spectrometer with changes in sample matrix. Better understanding of the transmission behaviors of analyte through the sampling and skimmer cones will provide the insights needed to alleviate matrix interferences and to improve the interface design between the ICP and mass spectrometer. Laser induced fluorescence is a highly sensitive, non-invasive and element specific detection method. The research herein endeavors to explain the transport behaviors of analytes upstream and downstream from the sampling cone in an ICP-MS. The final goal of this research is to improve the consistency and efficiency with which ions are transported from an ICP source to a mass analyzer. Several issues related to analyte transmission through the sampling and skimmer cones have been explored and discussed in this dissertation. First, it is found that the existence of the sampling cone not only disturbs the local thermodynamic equilibrium of the plasma, but also changes the spatial distributions and number densities of analyte species. Second, it has been verified that the spread of analyte species in the first vacuum stage is mass-dependent and can be explained by ambiploar diffusion theory. Finally, the current research suggests that the transmission efficiencies of the skimmer cone are impacted by the nebulizer flow and first vacuum stage pressure of the ICP-MS. To better elucidate the analyte transport behaviors from the plasma to the ion detector in an ICP-MS, more investigation needs to be carried out. Further research, such as the entire measurements of analyte transmission efficiency through the skimmer cone, the variation of doubly charged ions under different plasma operational conditions, and the functions of argon metastable atoms on analyte ionization inside the plasma will require much additional work.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


Document Type





ICP-MS, Ion Transport, Sampling cone