LA-ICP-MS analysis

Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is a powerful analytical technique for analyzing the surfaces of solid materials with little to no sample preparation. LA-ICP-MS is often used to study thin films, but it has additional applications in fields including chemistry, biology, materials science, and geology.

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What is LA-ICP-MS used for?

LA-ICP-MS is used to gather information on the elemental makeup of solid surfaces. It can identify metallic impurities with very high sensitivity (down to ppb-level). This makes LA-ICP-MS an effective method for trace element analysis.

Due to the nature of laser ablation, it is unnecessary to dissolve or vaporize the sample by conventional means, which means that the analysis can be conducted directly on the surface of a solid sample. Furthermore, the technique is suitable for both bulky materials and much smaller sample sizes.

LA-ICP-MS is used in several industries, ranging from chemistry and material science to geological and environmental analysis, and even bioimaging and forensics. As laser ablation tends to only remove a small amount of matter from the surface of the sample, it is a relatively non-destructive method, making it ideal for some more delicate sample types.

In semiconductor testing, another commonly used form of ICP-MS analysis is VPD-ICP-MS, which is especially well-suited for analyzing thin films and silicon wafers.

How does laser ablation ICP-MS work?

LA-ICP-MS analysis begins by exposing the sample to pulsed light from a laser. Usually, very quickly pulsed ultraviolet light is used to achieve the best results. The pulsation causes ablation to occur, which means that very fine particles are removed from the surface of the sample.

These particles are then collected and transported into the mass spectrometer using an inert, unreactive gas. The particles are broken down and ionized by a plasma source before they move to the main body of the spectrometer. Here, the ions reach a vacuum chamber and travel along it. As the ions accelerate across the length of the chamber, they are separated by their relative charges and masses.

Upon reaching the end of the chamber, the ions are detected and data on them is recorded. The collected data allows different types of ions to be identified and their relative abundances calculated. LA-ICP-MS thus provides valuable information on the makeup of the sample's surface.

Sample requirements and preparation

One of the main advantages of LA-ICP-MS as an analytical technique is the lack of need for complicated sample preparation. Generally, most solid-state samples can be converted into an aerosol through laser ablation, which makes them suitable for analysis.

Need a laser ablation ICP-MS analysis?

Measurlabs offers LA-ICP-MS testing services with fast results and competitive prices. You can contact us to request a quote through the form below or by email at We also offer a comprehensive selection of other analytical methods, including rarer ones, such as ToF-ERDA and GD-OES. If you have any questions about the suitability of different techniques for your samples, our experts are always happy to help.

Suitable sample matrices

  • Solid state samples
  • Crystals
  • Metals
  • Geological samples
  • Solid biological matter
  • Semiconductors

Ideal uses of LA-ICP-MS analysis

  • Determining metal concentrations on ALD thin films
  • Analyzing the surface composition of new materials
  • Thin film depth profiling

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  • How many samples do you have and what is the sample material?
  • Do you have a recurring need for these tests? If yes, how often and for how many samples at a time?

Have questions or need help? Email us at or call +358 50 336 6128.

Frequently asked questions

What is LA-ICP-MS commonly used for?

LA-ICP-MS is used to analyze the surfaces of solid materials, having applications in chemistry, biology, material science, geology, forensics, and several other fields.

What kinds of samples can be analyzed with LA-ICP-MS?

The method can be used to analyze the surfaces of solid materials like crystals, metals, geological samples, and solid biological matter.

What is Measurlabs?

Measurlabs offers a variety of laboratory analyses for product developers and quality managers. We perform some of the analyses in our own lab, but mostly we outsource them to carefully selected partner laboratories. This way we can send each sample to the lab that is best suited for the purpose, and offer high-quality analyses with more than a thousand different methods to our clients.

How does the service work?

When you contact us through our contact form or by email, one of our specialists will take ownership of your case and answer your query. You get an offer with all the necessary details about the analysis, and can send your samples to the indicated address. We will then take care of sending your samples to the correct laboratories and write a clear report on the results for you.

How do I send my samples?

Samples are usually delivered to our laboratory via courier. Contact us for further details before sending samples.