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Impact of and correction for instrument sensitivity drift on nanoparticle size measurements by single-particle ICP-MS



Hind El Hadri, Elijah Petersen, Michael R. Winchester


Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are already incorporated into numerous consumer products, and increasing product applications are expected in future years. To enable an understanding of potential risks associated with these products, it is important to develop analytical techniques to measure accurately ENM sizes in various matrices. This is critical for assessing ENM release from consumer products and for conducting studies on the potential environmental and human health effects of ENMs. One promising technique that has received significant attention in recent years for quantifying nanoparticle (NP) sizes in liquid suspension is single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (spICP-MS). However, the sources of uncertainty and bias that can impact the accuracy of this technique are only now beginning to be investigated. The aim of this paper is to assess the effect of ICP-MS instrument sensitivity drift on the accuracy of NP size measurements using spICP-MS. Theoretical modeling and experimental measurements of the impact of instrument sensitivity drift are in agreement and indicate that drift can impact the measured size of spherical NPs by up to 25 %. Given this substantial change in the measured size, a method was developed using an internal standard to correct for the impact of drift. To our knowledge, this is the first application of internal standards to spICP-MS measurements of nanomaterials.
Analytical Chemistry


drift correction, gold nanoparticles, instrument sensitivity drift, internal standard, single-particle ICP-MS


El Hadri, H. , Petersen, E. and Winchester, M. (2016), Impact of and correction for instrument sensitivity drift on nanoparticle size measurements by single-particle ICP-MS, Analytical Chemistry, [online], (Accessed May 21, 2024)


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Created February 7, 2016, Updated October 12, 2021