The accurate determination of number concentration of inorganic nanoparticles using spICP-MS with the dynamic mass flow approach†
Methodology for the accurate determination of number concentration of inorganic nanoparticles (NP) by single particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (spICP-MS) using the novel dynamic mass flow (DMF) approach is systematically described. Using this method the determination of transport efficiency (TE) is achieved without the need for a reference nanomaterial. The impact of key parameters on the accuracy and uncertainty of the number concentration data obtained with this approach was evaluated. In particular the number of detected NP in the time scan is the major contributing factor to the overall measurement uncertainty. For Au NP of spherical shape with number based concentration in the range of 4.0 × 1012 to 2.0 × 1014 kg−1 (depending on the particle size) a relative expanded uncertainty (k = 2) of less than 10% was achieved. This reference methodology was also evaluated for the accurate determination of number concentration of more complex NP namely triethanolamine (TEA)-stabilised TiO2 NP, for which like-for-like NP reference materials are not available. Using a sample mass flow of 0.3578 g min−1 (with an associated uncertainty of 0.0002 g min−1, k = 1) the average transport efficiencies for Au NP (in trisodium citrate) and TiO2 NP (in TEA/NaOH) were very similar (7.57 ± 0.13% and 7.77 ± 0.22%, k = 1, respectively). Finally the number concentration values for both NP types agreed well with those obtained using particle tracking analysis (PTA), providing evidence for the good agreement between mass-based TE of the sample and NP-based TE with the newly proposed method.