Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 396(1), p. 15-29 (2010); doi:10.1007/s00216-009-2959-6
Inorganic mass spectrometry techniques may offer great potential for the characterisation at the nanoscale, because they provide unique elemental information of great value for a better understanding of processes occurring at nanometre-length dimensions. Two main groups of techniques are reviewed: those allowing direct solid analysis with spatial resolution capabilities, i.e. lateral (imaging) and/or indepth profile, and those for the analysis of liquids containing colloids. In this context, the present capabilities of widespread elemental mass spectrometry techniques such as laser ablation coupled with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), glow discharge mass spectrometry and secondary ion/neutral mass spectrometry are described and compared through selected examples from various scientific fields. On the other hand, approaches for the characterisation (i.e. size, composition, presence of impurities, etc.) of colloidal solutions containing nanoparticles by the well-established ICP-MS technique are described. In this latter case, the capabilities derived from the on-line coupling of separation techniques such as field-flow fractionation and liquid chromatography with ICP-MS are also assessed. Finally, appealing trends using ICP-MS for bioassays with biomolecules labelled with nanoparticles are delineated.
Financial support from Plan Nacional de I+D+I (Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, and FEDER Programme) through the projects CTQ2006-02309/BQU and MAT2007-65097-C02- 01 is gratefully acknowledged. In addition, B.F. acknowledges financial support from the Juan de la Cierva Research Programme of the Ministry of Science and Innovation of Spain. Both programmes are cofinanced by the European Social Fund