ICP or Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectroscopy is a scientific technique used to analyze, identify, and measure elements placed in a sample matrix based on a sample’s element ionization. Through MS or mass spectrometer, the ions are separated into their mass to charge ratio after the ICP process.

Afterwhich, a detector counts the ions per second, allowing the instrument to know the concentration amount of each element. With ICP MS Cones, the separation, ionization, and determination of concentrations are made more efficient and stable.

In this blog, let’s talk about what they are, how they work, and why you should maintain them.

What are ICP MS Cones?

ICP-MS cones are designed to achieve precise and accurate sample readings. They are made with large-orifice skimmer and sampler cones, providing the machine’s long-term stability and maintaining its clogging resistance. The ICP-MS cones also allow efficient analysis under low and high sample uptake conditions.

Generally, these cones are made with nickel or platinum. Nickel is compatible with almost all sample types, providing the cones with rugged construction for their longevity. On the other hand, platinum is more compatible with corrosive samples.

How Do These Cones Work?

An ICP-Ms system generally consists of two cones, but some designs feature the third cone. These metallic cones have very tiny orifices and are maintained at least 1 to 2 torr at a vacuum with mechanical roughing pumps.

Ions pass through the first ICP-MS cone after plasma generates them. The first cone is also known as the sample cone. They pass through a short distance from the first cone until they reach the skimmer cone with a smaller and more pointed orifice. For other systems that have the third cone, it’s called the hyper skimmer cone and is normally used to reduce the vacuum, providing the ion beam with less dispersion.

Because the plasma has a high temperature, it can negatively affect the cones. The ICP-MS interface housing is cooled by water to reduce the bad effects on the cones. Generally, copper or aluminum are used to construct the interface housing because these elements can dissipate heat more easily.

After the ions are released from the second or skimmer cone, they enter the ion optics, where they are guided to enter a mass separation device.

Benefits of ICP MS Cones

ICP-MS cones are designed to maximize and improve the efficiency of signal stability, minimizing clogging when running samples with high-dissolved solids. These cones also offer high interference levels, allowing large analytical ranges and high-resolution spectrometry.

Through ICP-MS cones, results generated from sampling are more precise and accurate. These cones also help optimize the performance of ICP-MS systems and improve machine productivity.

Maintaining ICP MS Cones

ICP-MS cones are created uniquely, depending on the instrument manufacturer, with the analytical zone showing the most number of differences and being the most important part that needs maintenance.

Together with other factors such as soil digests, groundwater, and seawater, these differences affect the rate of oxide and salt accumulation around the cone’s orifice and cone degradation. The data quality is the best determining tool that can tell whether the ICP-MS cones need cleaning or maintenance.

Additionally, the following are essential factors that may signal you to clean or change your cones:

  • Clogging or blocking can change the cones’ gas flow dynamics
  • Contamination can affect quality analysis
  • Cone degradation

The Future Is In ICP-MS Cones

ICP-MS cones allow efficient sampling even in high levels of matrix components, improving the machine’s efficiency and performance. Commonly made of copper, nickel, or platinum, these cones should always be maintained and kept clean to prevent clogging that can damage and affect the system’s optimization and accurate sampling.