Metabolomic Applications of Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)

  • Rob HenryEmail author
  • Teresa Cassel
Part of the Methods in Pharmacology and Toxicology book series (MIPT)


Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry is a versatile technique for rapid multielement analysis of metabolomic samples. It allows analysis of elements in solution or solids at the major, minor, or trace component levels in a very wide range of sample matrices. Laser Ablation, Gas Chromatography, Liquid Chromatography, and Capillary Electrophoresis have been successfully interfaced to extend the analytical capability of the technique for the speciation of organometallic metabolites. The principles of the technique are described, with practical details, followed by illustrative examples in the metabolomics field.

Key words

Laser Ablation Inductively coupled plasma Mass spectrometry Elemental analysis 



First ionization potential

(IP) of each element is the number of electron volts (eV) required to release an electron from the outermost orbit of an atomic state to generate a singly charged ion (M+). This largely determines the ICP-MS sensitivity.

Inductively coupled plasma (ICP)

A confined plasma (qv) is maintained by energy input from a radiofrequency (rf) field. The plasma ionizes materials at the atomic level, which can then be analyzed by various detection modalities, including mass spectrometry.

ICPS integrated counts per second Laser ablation

Laser is an acronym for “light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation.” A laser produces a narrow, pulsed or continuous beam of monochromatic, coherent light in the visible, infrared (IR) or ultraviolet (UV) regions of the electromagnetic spectrum that delivers energy to where it is focused at the surface of the sample. For laser ablation the sample is contained in a sample chamber which has a window transparent to laser light. Argon or helium carrier gas is used to transport the sample particles produced by the ablation process to the argon plasma of the ICP-MS instrument.


The fourth state of matter in which atoms are ionized to created a gas comprising free electrons and cations that interact over a substantial range. Plasmas are found in deep space, the sun, plasma screen monitors, as well as in laboratory conditions including ICP and in tokamaks. Such plasmas are created at very high temperature to maintain an ionized state.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Thermo Fisher ScientificBremenGermany
  2. 2.Center for Regulatory and Environmental Analytical Metabolomics (CREAM)University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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