Analyst, 136(2), p. 246-256 (2011); doi:10.1039/c0an00581a
Chemical speciation studies are commonly accomplished by resorting to hyphenated analytical techniques, consisting of a powerful chromatographic separation technique coupled to a highly sensitive elemental spectrometric detector. However, in addition to this element-selective information, complementary molecular spectrometric tools are often required for a complete identification of macromolecules. Therefore, there is an increased research effort focused towards the development of integrated instruments to carry out the complete chemical speciation within a sample using a single instrument. An outline of recent developments in plasma-based mass spectrometric instrumentation for such comprehensive chemical speciation studies is here presented and their pros and cons detailed. In this context, the use of complementary techniques operating in parallel after splitting to a single chromatographic separation (dual sources) providing simultaneously elemental and molecular information is critically reviewed. Also, instrumental developments involving the use of stationary plasma sources operated in non-traditional modes (e.g. low pressure and low power) are also discussed. Moreover, the capabilities of tunable plasma-based ionization sources (allowing different ionization processes and, so, quasi-simultaneously providing elemental and molecular information with a single instrument) as a relatively simple and cheap approach are revised.