Laser parameters, typically wavelength, pulse width, irradiance, repetition rate, and pulse energy, are critical parameters which influence the laser ablation process and thereby influence the LA-ICP-MS signal. In recent times, femtosecond laser ablation has gained popularity owing to the reduction in fractionation related issues and improved analytical performance which can provide matrix-independent sampling. The advantage offered by fs-LA is due to shorter pulse duration of the laser as compared to the phonon relaxation time and heat diffusion time. Hence the thermal effects are minimized in fs-LA. Recently, fs-LA-ICP-MS demonstrated improved analytical performance as compared to ns-LA-ICP-MS, but detailed mechanisms and processes are still not clearly understood. Improvement of fs-LA-ICP-MS over ns-LA-ICP-MS elucidates the importance of laser pulse duration and related effects on the ablation process. In this study, we have investigated the influence of laser pulse width (40 fs to 0.3 ns) and energy on LA-ICP-MS signal intensity and repeatability using a brass sample. Experiments were performed in single spot ablation mode as well as rastering ablation mode to monitor the Cu/Zn ratio. The recorded ICP-MS signal was correlated with total particle counts generated during laser ablation as well as particle size distribution. Our results show the importance of pulse width effects in the fs regime that becomes more pronounced when moving from femtosecond to picosecond and nanosecond regimes.
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