FI-ICP-TOFMS for high-throughput and low volume multi-element analysis in environmental and biological matrices
The capabilities of flow injection inductively coupled plasma time-of-flight mass spectrometry (FI-ICP-TOFMS) were evaluated for accurate multi-element analysis addressing water and serum reference materials with a sample intake of 5 μL in comparison to FI-ICP-MS/MS analysis. A comparison of the standard operation mode and the collision/reaction cell technology (CCT) of the ICP-TOFMS yielded lower limits of quantification, higher mass resolving power and improved precision for most elements when using H2/He gas. Overall, in the studied water matrix, accuracy of quantification for a large panel of elements was obtained in both modes (with the exception of low iron concentration in the standard mode). By increasing matrix complexity, as exemplified in the multi-element quantification exercise in serum, the FI-ICP-TOFMS approach proved to be fit-for-purpose. Accurate quantification of key elements with major biological function (Mg, Al, Fe, Cu, Zn, Se and Cd) was possible in serum ClinCheck reference material in standard operation mode without the need for prior sample mineralization and dilution. Cross-validation by quadrupole-based FI-ICP-MS/MS was performed showing the unique capability of ICP-TOFMS regarding accurate high-throughput quantification within transient signals of few seconds. For accurate FI-ICP-MS/MS analysis, multiple sample injections using standard mode and O2 gas mode were required for multi-element analysis in a short transient signal. Hence, this study demonstrates that the presented method is a valuable tool for trace element determination in environmentally and biologically relevant matrices at unprecedented speed.