LA-ICP-MS Analysis

Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is an important technique used to sample and analyze the surfaces of solid materials. With little to no sample preparation required, it can be used to efficiently gather a wide range of information on various types of solid-state sample matter. LA-ICP-MS is used to great effect in the fields of chemistry, biology, material science, geology, forensics, and many others.

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What is LA-ICP-MS?

LA-ICP-MS is a combined sampling and analysis technique that applies the benefits of two methods: Laser ablation and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. LA is used as a sampling method, allowing for the extraction of fine particulate matter from the surface of a sample. This can then be analyzed through ICP-MS, which provides data on the contents of said sample. This makes LA-ICP-MS a very practical method of analyzing the composition and structure of a wide variety of surfaces.

How does laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry work?

The process begins by exposing the sample to pulsed light from a laser. This light is usually ultraviolet in nature and is pulsed very quickly in order to achieve the best results. This 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 then broken down and ionized by a plasma source before entering the main body of the spectrometer. Here, they reach a vacuum chamber, which they travel along. As they accelerate across the length of the chamber, the ions are separated by their relative charges and masses.

Upon reaching the end of the chamber, the ions are detected and the data is recorded. This data provides information on the ions, allowing them to be identified and their relative abundances calculated. LA-ICP-MS thus provides valuable information on the makeup of the surface of the sample.

What is LA-ICP-MS used for?

LA-ICP-MS is predominantly used for the analysis of solid-state samples. 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 has a wide range in terms of sample size, being able to analyze components in large or small quantities, making it suitable for use on bulk samples, as well as for much smaller sample sizes.

This makes it an ideal technique for analyzing several qualities of solid samples, such as their elemental makeup and surface construction, as well as identifying any impurities or structural defects.

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

In the semiconductor industry, a more commonly used form of ICP-MS analysis is VPD-ICP-MS, which is best suited for the analysis of thin films and silicon wafers.

Sample requirements and preparation

One of the main draws of LA-ICP-MS as an analytical technique is the lack of any complicated sample preparation. Generally, most solid-state samples can be converted into an aerosol through laser ablation, making them suitable for ICP-MS analysis. As such, there is no specific preparation required for the majority of solid sample matter.

Need a laser ablation ICP-MS analysis?

Measurlabs offers laser ablation ICP-MS testing services of high quality with fast results and affordable prices. If you have any questions about your sample or its suitability for the method, our experts are always happy to help. You can contact us through the form below or by emailing us at

Suitable sample matrices

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

Ideal uses of LA-ICP-MS analysis

  • Analysing the surface composition of a new material
  • Observing structural defects in crystals
  • Forensic analysis of solid evidence
  • Surface imaging of solid biological matter

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Frequently asked questions

What is LA-ICP-MS commonly used for?

Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is an analytical technique used to analyze the surfaces of solid materials. The method is used to great effect in the fields of chemistry, biology, material science, geology, forensics, and many others.

What kind of samples can be analysed with LA-ICP-MS?

The method can be used to analyze the surfaces of solid state 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.