Equipment Trace Analysis

The AIC is equipped with state-of-the-art ICP-MS and GC-MS instruments for both inorganic and organic trace analysis. The research group for "Inorganic Trace Analysis" is headed by Univ.Prof. A. Limbeck, opens an external URL in a new window, while Ao.Univ.Prof. Erwin Rosenberg, opens an external URL in a new window leads the Research Group of "Organic Trace Analysis".

Available devices

The Thermo iCAP Q is a mass spectrometer with an inductive coupled plasma as the ion source (ICP-MS) for qualitative and quantitative elemental analysis. Especially in the field of inorganic trace analysis it is a reliable and highly sensitive method. With this technique most elements can be detected and quantified up to a sub-ppt (< ng/l) concentrations. Aside from simple qualitative analysis it is possible to answer complex quantitative questions, furthermore an isotope analysis is possible. Due to the high sensitivity of the method, components of the sample matrix can cause interferences. Therefore a sample preparation or extensive optimisations of the measurement parameters is often necessary to obtain accurate quantifications of the detected elements.


The iCAP 6500 RAD is an inductive coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES). ICP-OES is a reliable and flexible technique for the identification of trace elements: 66 elements including sulfur can be analysed qualitatively and quantitatively with a concentration range from µg/l to g/l. In comparison to ICP-MS this technique is simpler in it’s process and less susceptible to interferences, thus making it a used standard method for routine analysis. The simultaneous recording of multiple emission lines allows the acquisition of time-resolved signals and thus a combination with sample introduction systems, which generate transient signals, such as flow injection analysis (FIA) or electro-thermal evaporation (ETV).


The basic principle of laser ablation for direct solid state analysis is based on the removal of sample material with a focused laser beam in a laser ablation chamber, and the transport of the formed aerosol with an inert gas in an ICP-MS or ICP-OES, resulting in the possibility of a quantitative multielement analysis of the removed sample. In addition to classical micro-area analysis laser ablation can also be used to perform measurements of depth profiles and lateral element distribution analysations (imaging).


The HPLC-MS-IT-TOF is a system for comprehensive two dimensional high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled to an ion trap flight time mass spectrometer (IT-TOF-MS) with electrospray (ESI) and atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation (APCI). The comprehensive two dimensional HPLC allows the separation of complex compound mixtures with higher separation efficiency and selectivity than one dimensional HPLC methods. With the ion trap time of flight mass spectrometry it is possible to record MS and MSn spectra (n up to 6) with high mass resolution (R>11 000) and high mass accuracy (better than 5 ppm). Using these two properties, the structure of unknown substances ca be elucidated and the molecular formulas of know substances can be confirmed. This system also provides UV/Vis diode array and fluorescence detection.


With the comprehensive two dimentional gas chromatography it is possible to separate mixtures of organic substances of the highest complexity (e.g. environmental samples, samples of the fragrance and flavour production or the petrochemical industry). With a suitable choice of the separation columns  and the separation parameters in the two dimensions up to 5000 substances may be separated. The separation is ensued, for example according to the substance specific properties such as volatility and polarity, with the result that each compound has a specific place in the two dimensional separation space, which is spanned by these two parameters. For quantitative measurements the flame ionisation detector (FID) may be used, whilst qualitative measurements require mass spectrometric (MS) detection. In addition to the at least an order of magnitude improved separation performance compared to one-dimensional gas chromatography, the sensitivity is typically increased by the same factor and interferences can therefore be completely eliminated.


The GC-MIP-AED system from Joint Analytical Systems (JAS) is a gas chromatograph with a microwave-induced plasma for atomic emission detection. After the gas chromatographic separation, the analytes are feed into a He-microwave plasma, where they are completely atomised and excited to emit element-specific radiation. The radiation emission is detected continuously with a diode array spectrometer in the UV/Vis range , thus allowing the qualitative and quantitative detection of the elements contained in the sample. It is therefore a highly sensitive element-specific detector for the GC, used particularly for environmental analysis (e.g. organometallic compounds in the environment) or for industrial analysis (e.g. sulfur-containing compounds in oil and gas samples).