Overcoming challenges in single particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry measurement of silver nanoparticles
Jingyu Liu, Karen E. Murphy, Michael R. Winchester, Vincent A. Hackley
Single particle ICP-MS has evolved rapidly as a quantitative method for determining nanoparticle size and number concentration at environmentally relevant exposure levels. Central to the application of spICP-MS is a commonly used, but not rigorously validated, calibration approach based on the measured transport efficiency and the response of ionic standards. In this work, we present a comprehensive and systematic study of the accuracy, precision and robustness of spICP-MS using the rigorously characterized reference material(RM) 8017 (Polyvinylpyrrolidone Coated Nominal 75 nm Silver Nanoparticles), recently issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). We report for the first time, statistically significant differences in frequency-based and size-based measures of transport efficiency with NIST RM 8013 Gold Nanoparticles and demonstrate that the size-based measure of transport efficiency is more robust and yields accurate results for the silver nanoparticle RM relative to TEM-based reference values. This finding is significant, because the frequency-based method is more widely applied. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the use of acidified ionic standards improves measurement of ICP-MS Ag response, but does not degrade the accuracy of the results for AgNP suspensions in water or various other diluents. Approaches for controlling AgNP dissolution were investigated and are shown to effectively improve particle stability in dilute suspensions required for spICP-MS analysis, while minimally affecting the measured intensity and allowing for more robust analysis. This study is an important and necessary advancement toward full validation and adoption of spICP-MS by the broader research community.