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Introducing the Thermo Scientific™ iCAP™ RQ ICP-MS

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Laboratories performing trace elemental analyses are under constant pressure to maintain high throughput whilst guaranteeing accurate, reliable results.  In an effort to address these requirements Thermo Fisher Scientific recently introduced their new iCAP™ RQ ICP-MS which delivers a host of new features to increase efficiency, productivity and streamline method development.

We spoke to Dr Shona McSheehy Ducos, ICP-MS Product Manager, at Thermo Fisher Scientific to discuss the benefits of this new instrument for a range of applications. 

JR: The robust high-throughput characteristics of the Thermo Scientific™ iCAP™ RQ ICP-MS make it suitable for environmental analysis applications. Could you provide us with an overview of how it can be utilized in this sector?

SMD: Whether analyzing drinking water, waste water or soil digests one of the key challenges in environmental analysis is always; how to avoid instrumental drift and eventual system clogging due to matrix deposition. To tackle this, the iCAP RQ ICP-MS includes the new, ’Robust’ 4.5mm cone interface insert, designed specifically for use in typical environmental analyses. The Robust insert is ideal for the long-term analysis of dirty, high matrix samples as it reduces matrix build-up for minimized drift and reduced user maintenance. It also extends the linear dynamic range and enables quantification up to higher concentration levels, reducing the need for dilution. A new solid state RF generator and highly robust plasma, significantly enhance the system’s ability to cope with challenging matrices.

Compatibility with a range of automated sample handling systems enables maximum productivity, as environmental sampling is known for its high-throughput requirements; this is a key benefit to analysts. The Thermo Scientific™ Qtegra™ Intelligent Scientific Data Solution™ (ISDS) software comes with built-in EPA compliance features to simplify the implementation of demanding environmental analytical procedures such as EPA 200.8 and 6020.

JR: Could you describe how this system deals with ultra-high matrix samples and the applications this capability enables? 

SMD: Decreased sensitivity and increased downtime due to cone or nebulizer blockages are the typical difficulties encountered in ultra-high matrix samples. The iCAP RQ ICP-MS deals with this challenge through the clever combination of a discrete sample valve autosampler and Argon Gas Dilution (AGD). By using this approach in conjunction with the helium Kinetic Energy Discrimination (He KED) single analysis mode and online dilution, the direct analysis of up to 25% sodium chloride matrices is achievable, with minimal impact on internal standard recovery, compared to a blank. Quick, low-cost analysis of samples such as sea-water and brines can be implemented on a routine basis as a result.

JR: How can the iCAP RQ ICP-MS benefit pharma manufacturers?

SMD: The sensitivity and specificity of ICP-MS, as compared to other trace elemental analysis techniques, makes it the ideal analysis approach for quality control and assurance in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. The iCAP RQ ICP-MS offers detection capability down to sub-ppt levels and a choice of insert options for the interface cone to ensure the right match to the matrix and application. For pharmaceutical samples, the High Matrix insert provides the ideal balance between sensitivity and matrix tolerance, making it possible to run samples over extended periods of time, with minimal drift - just what is needed in the drug manufacturing environment. The logical simplicity of the low-maintenance hardware design makes it possible to put the system straight to work in the lab with little set-up and minimal training.

In addition to controlling the purity of the drug itself, another challenge faced by pharmaceutical manufacturers is potential elemental contamination via leaching from packaging such as foil and printed material. The comprehensive interference removal enabled by the iCAP RQ ICP-MS’ unique collision/reaction cell flatapole design ensures the data accuracy required to produce and package drugs, safe from contamination.

JR: Regulations are constantly evolving in the pharmaceutical sector. How does this new system help customers to future-proof their lab?

SMD: The Qtegra ISDS software provides easy, total control of the iCAP RQ ICP-MS, is fully compliant with FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and has all the IQ/OQ features needed to implement GMP and GLP procedures. With regular updates and upgrades to the software designed to reflect changes to and demands in real world requirements (and made available to customers automatically), there is never any need for concern about regulatory compliance. The detection capabilities and flexibility of the system exceed even the most rigorous global regulations and legislation for pharmaceuticals, including ICH Q3D and USP 232, 233 and 2232, so that even if future regulations require lower levels of detection, the iCAP RQ ICP-MS will be more than capable of meeting those levels.

As new pharmaceutical molecules are discovered and, more often now, engineered, the ability to perform advanced analysis techniques on a routine basis is becoming essential. Increasingly, molecular engineering has come to mean ‘nanoparticles’. A recent addition to Qtegra ISDS software is the npQuant plug-in, for use with Thermo Scientific™ quadrupole ICP-MS systems. This plug-in enables highly accurate nanoparticle analysis by spICP-MS to become routine. The spICP-MS technique has advantages over other options, as it is very fast, experimentally simple to perform and accurate, even at low particle concentrations. In the likely event that nanotechnology-specific regulation or legislation is introduced, the ability to quantitate and characterize trace elemental nanoparticles will be critical to pharmaceutical labs.

JR: How can these capabilities also benefit food analysis where major and minor analyte concentrations must be accurately monitored simultaneously?

SMD: Food analysis demands both regulatory compliance and toxicity testing for the consumer’s safety and monitoring of contamination for the environment’s safety. For this reason the ability to conduct highly accurate multi-elemental analysis of major and minor elements is critical to food manufacturers. Maintaining high-throughput is also essential, as productivity is a key factor to manufacturing success. The elemental and dynamic range of the iCAP RQ ICP-MS makes it particularly suited for food analysis. The clever design of the QCell flatapole collision/reaction cell facilitates a range of analysis modes. By choosing the He KED mode, the simultaneous determination of all elements of interest, in a wide range of food samples, is possible on a routine basis. A Low Mass Cut Off (LMCO) action in the flatapole, filters out unwanted precursor ions, even before the He KED mode filter is applied, delivering even greater accuracy

For even greater confidence in food safety analysis, the iCAP RQ ICP-MS can be easily coupled to a metal-free IC system for the speciation analysis of critical elements such as arsenic, chromium and mercury. 

Shona McSheehy Ducos was speaking to Jack Rudd, Editor for Technology Networks.