By definition a trace metal exists in a sample or compound at an extremely low, often difficult to detect, concentration. However, though the concentration of metal present may be low, depending on the metal and the sample where it is found, it could lead to very serious problems ranging from purity or quality issues in a substance, up to posing a health and safety risk for those exposed to the metal. This makes detecting and accurately quantifying the trace metal extremely important. An effective industrial lab method for doing precisely that is Inductively- Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). Let’s take a look at how ICP-MS works and its role in reliably detecting trace metals.

What Is Inductively-Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry?

ICP-MS is sophisticated laboratory analysis method that takes one of the most well known types of lab analysis, mass spectrometry, and combines it with inductively coupled plasma in order to separate out and then quantify the concentration levels of different ions within a sample. The inductively coupled plasma energizes the molecules within the sample, ionizing them so that they can then be detected with mass spectrometry. Let’s take a closer look at each of these processes to better understand how they work in conjunction with each other.

What Is Inductively-Coupled Plasma?

Inductively coupled plasma (ICP) is a plasma that has been ionized using an electromagnetic coil to inductively heat a gas. The heating process makes the gas electrically conductive, which in turn causes the atoms in the sample that is being analyzed to convert to ions so that they can then subsequently be separated and detected with mass spectrometry. The inductively coupled plasma phase of the process occurs within concentric tubes or channels of the ICP torch.

The gas used for this process is argon and it is heated to extremely high temperatures, often as much as 6,000°K-10,000°K. Then the sample is introduced into the ICP torch by nebulizing it. Because the argon gas is so hot it is an excellent ion source and as the molecules in the sample collide with the molecules of argon they exchange electrons and become ionized.

How Does Mass Spectrometry Work?

Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that is designed to determine the type of molecules present as well as their concentration levels. The mass spectrometer contains a mass analyzer that is used to identify the type of molecules present. Then a detector is used to determine the abundance of these molecules, thereby providing accurate and detailed information about the presence and concentration of molecules like trace metals in a sample.

Different mass spectrometers use different types of ionizers, but for ICP-MS the ions come from the inductively coupled plasma discussed above. The ions are extracted from the plasma and into the mass spectrometer using interface cones.

Why Is Detecting Trace Metals Important?

ICP-MS is an extremely sensitive and accurate process. It is capable of detecting extremely low concentrations of metals, in the order of parts-per-billion, and for some non-metals it can even detect concentrations as low as parts-per-quadrillion. This extreme precision is important because many industries must closely monitor the amount of trace metals present.

In some chemical and petrochemical industries OSHA mandates testing for trace metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic in working environments as a way to protect workers from serious toxicity and health concerns. Detecting the presence of trace metals in consumer products is also crucial for keeping the public and the environment safe.

CPI offers Inductively-Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) as one of our core lab services. We also understand that companies who need these tests also need the results quickly. That is why in most cases we are able to deliver highly detailed reports within a few hours of completing testing, or if it is not during business hours then by 10:00am the following day. Accurately detecting trace metals is important and with ICP-MS and other advanced methodologies CPI is proud to serve the Golden Triangle and Houston area industrial sectors with dependable lab services.

One of the most valuable and useful methods of analysis for industrial labs like CPI is Combustion Ion Chromatography (CIC). CIC offers highly accurate, precise, reproducible results that work on a very wide range of samples to yield extremely useful analysis. This gives it many industrial applications and makes it a popular choice for a diverse range of industries. Let’s take a closer look at what makes CIC such an important analytical tool.

An Overview of Combustion Ion Chromatography

Traditional Ion Chromatography (IC) works with any charged molecule, making it a similarly valuable and widely used method of analyzing the precise compositions of samples. However, useful as it is, IC does have some limits in terms of the types of samples it can analyze since it requires a charged molecule. By contrast Combustion Ion Chromatography (CIC) works on any type of combustible material, giving it even wider application.

CIC Measures Total Halogens and Sulfur

An important reason why CIC is such a useful tool is that it is able to detect the presence of total halogens, including fluorine (F), chlorine (Cl), bromine (Br), and iodine (I) and measure their concentration. CIC is also able to detect and measure sulfur compounds such as sulfite, sulfate, and thiosulfate. The ability to analyze halogen and sulfur compositions is important because these substances are highly regulated and not exceeding allowable concentrations is crucial for industries to remain in compliance with different industrial regulations. Halogen and sulfur are also volatile substances and may potentially damage some types of industrial equipment or pose health and safety risks to workers. Detecting and measuring the concentrations of these substances with CIC is thus imperative for avoiding a host of serious problems.

CIC Works on a Full Range of Materials

Another big reason that CIC is such a valuable analytical process is that it works on a full range of different materials – solids, liquids, or gases. As long as the sample is combustible CIC can analyze it. This broad range of sample types often makes it a reliable, go-to method of analysis for labs that have CIC capabilities.

CIC Yields Dependable Results

CIC also yields extremely dependable results, including results that meet the following three major criteria:

  • Reproducibility – CIC results can easily be reproduced in subsequent tests, indicatingtheir reliability.
  • Accurate – CIC results are extremely accurate with a low margin of error.
  • Precise – CIC results are precise and provide extremely detailed analysis of samplecomposition down to concentration levels of parts-per-billion.

CIC Is Fast and Can be Automated

Another reason that CIC is popular in industrial labs is that it saves technicians both time and labor. That is because CIC can be partially automated and also because it is a very fast process that yields results quickly. This makes it a great choice when time is of the essence or when lab technicians need to multitask.

CIC Is Used by a Wide Array of Industries

Combined, these benefits give CIC applicability for an extremely broad range of different industries. Some of the many types of industries that may utilize CIC analysis include companies that manufacture any of the following:

  • Gasoline, Diesel and Jet fuels
  • Paints
  • Resins
  • LPGs
  • Foods
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Insulations
  • Plastics
  • Electronic Components

CPI Offers Combustion Ion Chromatography As a Core Service

Despite the many great advantages and applications of CIC discussed above, it remains a somewhat rare tool at many laboratories. However, at CPI Labs we are proud to offer CIC as one of our core services. This is part of our commitment to providing the bustling Golden Triangle and Houston-area industrial markets with outstanding lab services.

Quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) are important in just about every industry. However, they are especially important in the chemical and petrochemical sector because these industries often deal with volatile, toxic, or corrosive substances that must be carefully controlled and monitored for quality. Dependable QA/QC meets these objectives in a number of effective ways. Let’s take a closer look at what QA/QC mean for chemical and petrochemical companies.

The General Role of QA/QC

In order to understand the scope of what QA/QC does for the chemical and petrochemical sector specifically, it is first necessary to understand the general role QA/QC plays for companies regardless of the industry. Whether the company in question manufactures or works with chemical substances or makes office supplies or electronics, the general role of QA/QC is as follows:

Quality Assurance – Quality assurance involves creating and optimizing systems and processes that assure peak quality. The aim of quality assurance is to prevent a problem or defect before it occurs by establishing a framework that yields consistently high quality results.

Quality Control – By contrast quality control acknowledges the reality that some errors, problems, or defects are going to slip through no matter what, but that catching and resolving these issues is critical. A major part of quality control is thus testing and analyzing finished products to detect and correct any sub-quality results.

The General Benefits of Good QA/QC

Because effective QA/QC is able to reduce the number of errors and defects it likewise lowers costs and yields better quality products. For that reason good QA/QC has the following general benefits in just about every industry that utilizes it:

  • Lower costs
  • Greater productivity
  • Improved reputation with customers/clients
  • Improved reputation within the industry

<>The Role of QA/QC within the Chemical and Petrochemical Sector

Within the chemical and petrochemical sector QA/QC may be used to establish and maintain proper handling guidelines for chemical substances and compounds. Effective QA/QC within the chemical and petrochemical sector will also establish systems and processes that create high quality chemical products or that utilize chemical products effectively during industrial applications to yield quality products. Finally, good QA/QC for the chemical and petrochemical sector will promptly detect any deviations from desired purity and quality levels and provide solutions for correcting the problem.

The Benefits of Good QA/QC for the Chemical and Petrochemical Sector

Effective QA/QC within the chemical and petrochemical sector will ensure that the companies in question safely and consistently produce high quality products that meet the needs and expectations of customers and clients, satisfy all relevant regulatory standards, and do not endanger the safety or wellbeing of workers, the local community, or the environment. Good QA/QC within the chemical and petrochemical sector will provide:

  • High Accuracy
  • High Reproducibility
  • Better consumer/client confidence
  • Improved company reputation
  • Ability to meet regulatory standards
  • Ability to meet industry standards
  • Enhanced safety

How Chemical and Petrochemical Companies Can Achieve Good QA/QC

For some chemical and petrochemical companies they may have a built in QA/QC department capable of running the sophisticated lab work necessary. However, this requires a great deal of expertise and state-of-the-art equipment. It is also a significant time and labor investment. Thus, for many companies it makes sense to partner a company like CPI Laboratories that can handle all lab-related QA/QC services. We guarantee both highly detailed reports and quick, efficient work.