A prototype inductively coupled plasma time-of-flight mass spectrometer (ICPTOFMS) for time resolved measurements of transient signals in the microsecond regime is described in this work. Analytical figures of merit for the prototype are given for both liquid nebulization and single droplet introduction and are compared to a conventional quadrupole-based ICPMS using the same ICP source and vacuum interface. Quasi-simultaneous detection at a time resolution of 33 μs of the prototype ICPTOFMS allows multi-isotope monitoring of short signals (200–500 μs duration) generated from individual droplets and particles. The capabilities of the instrument for the analysis of single nanoparticles are studied using microdroplets consisting of a multi-element standard solution and containing 114 nm Au particles. The detection efficiencies for Ag and Au, calculated from the response of individual droplets and particles, are similar to those of the quadrupole-based instrument and amount to 1.3 × 10−6 ions per atom and 3.1 × 10−6 ions per atom, respectively. The sizes of the smallest detectable Ag, Au and U metallic nanoparticles are estimated to be 46 nm, 32 nm and 22 nm, respectively. Furthermore, time shifts of the signals of different elements within single droplets were observed. These new results demonstrate the advantage of the temporal resolution of the instrument for studying processes taking place in the plasma on the μs-time scale.
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