Development and application of a porous cage carrier method for detecting trace elements in soils by direct current glow discharge mass spectrometry
The accurate and reliable determination of trace elements in soil still remains a big challenge for glow discharge mass spectrometry due to the poor conductive nature of soils. In the present work, a porous cage carrier was developed and used in the analysis of soils. The investigation results suggested that the carrier with a circular cross-sectional area in the range from 20 to 38 mm2, length from 15 to 17 mm and diameter of hole size from 1.5 mm to 2.0 mm could obtain good signals. Then the porous cage carrier method was systematically evaluated by analysing three types of soil reference materials. The discharge process was kept stable for more than 100 minutes, which was much longer than the boric acid method and indium sheet method. The investigations suggested that the internal precision was obtained within 16%, the external precision was better than 20% and the relative error was in the range from 0.7% to 17%. The detection limit of Tb could reach 0.014 μg g−1, which indicated that the new method qualified for the analysis of trace elements in soils. Compared to traditional tablet-pressed methods, the porous cage carrier method was not only convenient for sample preparation, but also showed good stability, reproducibility and better detection limits for trace elements. Furthermore, this method was proved to promote the potential application of GD-MS in the environmental field.