Diffusion- and velocity-driven spatial separation of analytes from single droplets entering an ICP off-axis†
The reproducible temporal separation of ion signals generated from a single multi-element droplet, observed in previous studies, was investigated in detail in this work using an ICPTOFMS with high temporal resolution. It was shown that the signal peak intensities of individual elements temporally shift relative to each other only for droplets moving through the plasma off-axis. The magnitude of these shifts correlated with the vaporization temperatures of the analytes and depended on the radial position of the droplets as well as on the thermal properties and velocity profiles of the carrier gases of the ICP. The occurrence of the signal shifting was explained by a spatial separation of analytes already present in the vapor phase in the ICP from a yet unvaporized residue of the droplet. This separation is most likely driven by anisotropic diffusion of vaporized analytes towards the plasma axis and a radial velocity gradient. The proposed explanation is supported by modeling of the gas velocities inside the ICP and imaging of the atomic and ionic emissions produced from single droplets, whose patterns were sloping towards the center of the torch. The effects observed in these studies are important not only for the fundamental understanding of analyte–plasma interactions but have also a direct impact on the signal intensities and stability.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2014 Young Analytical Scientists