The rapid development of nanotechnology has led to concerns over their environmental risk. Current analytical techniques are underdeveloped and lack the sensitivity and specificity to characterize these materials in complex environmental and biological matrices. To this end, single particle ICP-MS (spICP-MS) has been developed in the past decade, with the capability to detect and characterize nanomaterials at environmentally relevant concentrations in complex environmental and biological matrices. However, some nanomaterials are composed of elements inherently difficult to quantify by quadrupole ICP-MS due to abundant molecular interferences, such as dinitrogen ions interfering with the detection of silicon. Three approaches aimed at reducing the contribution of these background molecular interferences in the analysis of 28Si are explored in an attempt to detect and characterize silica colloids. Helium collision cell gases and reactive ammonia gas are investigated for their conventional use in reducing the signal generated from the dinitrogen interference and background silicon ions leaching from glass components of the instrumentation. A new approach brought on by the advent of microsecond dwell times in single particle ICP-MS allows for the detection and characterization of silica colloids without the need for these cell gases, as at shorter dwell times the proportion of signal attributed to a nanoparticle event is greater relative to the constant dinitrogen signal. It is demonstrated that the accurate detection and characterization of these materials will be reliant on achieving a balance between reducing the contribution of the background interference, while still registering the maximum amount of signal generated by the particle event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4733-4741
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 3 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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