Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES)

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    Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES)

    Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) is a rapid elemental analysis technique, which uses the unique spectral emission of elements to identify and quantify them. It is used for both quantitative trace and bulk elemental analysis of aqueous and organic liquids, suspensions, powders, and solids with a detection limit in parts per billion (ppb). Typical applications are in analyzing the chemical composition of materials such as metals, non-metals, paints, and coatings.

    In ICP-OES, an inductively coupled plasma (ICP) uses high temperature (~10000K) argon gas plasma to decompose the sample into its constituent atoms or ions. The thermal energy excites the electrons and emits the light at a specific wavelength upon relaxation. The detector array in OES identifies the constituent elements by their characteristic light, and the elements are quantified based on the light intensity of each different wavelength. These measurements are converted to elemental concentration when compared with the calibration standards. However, quantitative analysis can be performed without a reference standard, making this a versatile analytical technique for chemical analysis.

      Common Uses

      • Analysis of the metal ores
      • Analysis of non-rare earth and rare earth elements in the minerals
      • Quantitative chemical analysis in solids, liquids, and suspensions
      • Analysis of wastewater samples for their compliance with national regulation
      • Determination of nutrient levels in agricultural soil
      • Analysis of samples with high total dissolved solids (TDS) or suspended solids
      • Quantification of chloride counter ions in crude oil
      • Analysis of additive elements in lubrication oils of machines like motors, turbines, etc.
      • Analyzing toxic elements present in the medical products
      • Assessment of the purity of pharmaceutical compounds


      • Simple sample preparation method
      • Able to measure up to 60 elements in a single analysis of less than one minute
      • Low sample volume is required for the measurement
      • Analysis can be automated after the calibration of the equipment
      • High sample throughput that enables analyzing large batches
      • Analytical grade reagents can be used for tests


      • Samples can only be analyzed after they are aerosolized
      • A requirement of installing a high-volume gas facility
      • Not suitable for the detection of radioactive elements
      • The noble gas elements, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen, cannot be measured because of the poor sensitivities, or intense blank signals, or both
      • High potential for spectral interference can affect the accuracy of the results
      • Matrix effects are challenging for the precise measurement


      • Semiconductor
      • Advanced Materials
      • Mining and Minerals
      • Pharmaceuticals
      • Food and drinks
      • Healthcare
      • Agricultural testing


      • EAG Laboratories Inc
      • VHG Labs, Inc.
      • Laboratory Testing, Inc.
      • Galbraith Laboratories, Inc.
      • Smithers
      • Lucideon group
      • Intertek
      • Jordi Labs

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        FAQ on Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES)

        Our network of material testing labs regularly provides ICP-OES testing services for contaminants detection, trace elements analysis in high-purity materials.

        A single element scan for materials starts at $300/sample.

        ICP-OES is used for the rapid detection and quantification of most elements except halogens and radioactive elements.

        ICP elemental analysis involves ionization of samples by extremely hot plasma. These excited ions are detected by either a mass spectroscopy unit (ICP-MS) or via optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES). While ICP-OES can detect in the ppb range, ICP-MS can detect much lower concentrations down to ppt (parts per trillion).