Multielement analysis in soils using nitrogen microwave inductively coupled atmospheric-pressure plasma mass spectrometry†
In this study, we employed nitrogen microwave inductively coupled atmospheric-pressure plasma (MICAP) combined with quadrupole mass spectrometry (MS) and a liquid sample introduction system to analyze heavy metals in soils. The vanadium, cobalt, nickel, zinc, copper, chromium, arsenic, lead, and cadmium contents in seven reference and three environmental soil samples determined using MICAP-MS were within the uncertainty of the reference values, indicating that MICAP-MS is promising for soil analysis similar to the conventional inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) technique. In addition, the limits of detection (LODs) and sensitivity of both techniques using N2 and Ar plasma were of the same order of magnitude. Furthermore, the performance of MICAP-MS under different N2 purity was investigated, and we found that the plasma formation and ionization efficiency were not influenced by the impurities in the gas. A prominent advantage of MICAP-MS is the low operating cost associated with gas consumption. In this work, MICAP-MS used nitrogen, which is cheaper than argon, and consumed 25% less gas than ICP-MS. Using low-purity N2 can further reduce the gas cost, making MICAP-MS more cost effective than ICP-MS. These results suggest that MICAP-MS is a promising alternative to ICP-MS for the analysis of heavy metals in the soil.