Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) is an analytical technique used for the detection of trace metals. It is a type of emission spectroscopy that uses the inductively coupled plasma to produce excited atoms and ions that emit electromagnetic radiation at wavelengths characteristic of a particular element. The intensity of this emission is in direct correlation with the concentration of the element within the sample.
The ICP-OES is composed of two parts: the ICP and the optical spectrometer. Argon gas is typically used to create the plasma. When the torch is turned on, an intense magnetic field is generated. The argon gas is ionized in this field and flows towards the magnetic field. A stable and high temperature plasma of about 7000 K is then generated.
A peristaltic pump delivers an aqueous sample into a nebulizer where it is atomized and introduced directly inside the plasma flame. The sample immediately collides with the electrons and other charged ions in the plasma and is broken down into charged ions. The various molecules break up into their respective atoms which then lose electrons and recombine repeatedly in the plasma, giving off the characteristic wavelengths of the elements involved.
Transfer lenses are used to focus the emitted light on a diffraction grating where it is separated into its component radiation in the optical spectrometer. The light intensity is then measured with a photomultiplier tube at the specific wavelength for each element line involved.
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