Inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is a key analytical tool in many laboratories. It is used for elemental determinations across a wide range of analyses, including environmental, semiconductor, food safety, geological, chemical, petrochemical, nuclear, clinical, forensic, and research applications. Since the early publications during the development of ICP-MS, it has been apparent that one of the key limitations of the technique was the presence of molecular ions that overlap the preferred isotopes of several analytes. These molecular ions are typically called "polyatomic" ions, and are derived from combinations of the elements present in the plasma, the solvent and the sample matrix.
Semiquantitative elemental analysis by ICP-MS is a powerful tool for quick screening of unknown samples for a wide range of elements.