LA-ICP-MS Analysis

Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is a powerful analytical technique used to sample and analyze 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 the fields of chemistry, biology, material science, geology, and forensics, among 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 matter is then analyzed using ICP-MS, which provides data on the composition of the sample.

How does laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry 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.

What is LA-ICP-MS used for?

LA-ICP-MS is often used to gather information on the elemental makeup and surface construction of solid materials. It can also identify impurities and structural defects with a very high sensitivity. 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 can analyze components in large and small quantities, making it suitable for bulky samples as well as much smaller sample sizes.

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. 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 the semiconductor industry, another commonly used form of ICP-MS analysis is VPD-ICP-MS, which is especially well-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 need for any complicated sample preparation. Generally, most solid-state samples can be converted into an aerosol through laser ablation, which makes them suitable for the analysis.

Need a laser ablation ICP-MS analysis?

Measurlabs offers laser ablation ICP-MS testing services with fast results and competitive 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

  • Determining the metal concentrations on ALD thin films
  • Analyzing the surface composition of new materials
  • 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 has applications in the fields of chemistry, biology, material science, geology, forensics, and many others.

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.