Examples of LA-ICP-MS applications

Cathodoluminescence image of a zircon crystal showing a laser ablation pit

U-Pb age determination of accessory minerals

In addition to trace element determination, the LA-ICP-MS system can be used to obtain U-Pb ages in accessory minerals including zircon, titanite, and xenotime.

This example shows a cathodoluminesence image of a zircon grain following U-Pb age determination. The laser has been scanned along a line producing an elongated crater.

It is possible to obtain multiple ages for events in a single crystal where core-rim or other growth domains are observed.

Instrument: (ESI) New Wave UP193FX Laser Ablation System coupled to Agilent 7500cs ICP-MS

Note: The cathodoluminescence image was obtained using the JEOL 5900LV scanning electron microscope.

Find out about the Zeiss EVO 15 LS SEM

Backscatter image of a garnet grain alongside rare earth element determinations made by LA-ICP-MS

Spatially resolved analysis of zoned minerals

LA-ICP-MS is a tool used for low level multi-element analysis of solids. It is ideal for measuring trace element variation in zoned or heterogeneous materials.

This example shows a backscattered electron image of a garnet grain with complex internal zonation, together with rare earth element (REE) determinations made by LA-ICP-MS. 

The data reveal a transition from a homogeneous mineral core (green circles) to an oscillatory zoned rim.

Repeated determinations in each zone show REE chemistry varies significantly with zones.

Instrument: (ESI) New Wave UP193FX Laser Ablation System coupled to Agilent 7500cs ICP-MS

High spatial resolution LA-ICP-MS analysis of a fossil fish scale

High resolution analysis of fossil fish scales

LA-ICP-MS is not confined to the analysis of minerals and rocks, and may be applied to almost any solid material.

This example shows high spatial resolution LA-ICP-MS analysis of a fossil fish scale. 

The fossilised ray finned fish (shown bottom right) was collected from the mid-Triassic of southern Switzerland. Its scales formed a tough bony armour (shown mid right). 

Multiple analyses at high resolution across a cross section of a single scale (shown top right) revealed variation in chemistry: from the bony core, to the enamel outer part of the scale, consistent with the matrix in which it was fossilised.

Instrument used: (ESI) New Wave UP193FX Laser Ablation System coupled to Agilent 7500cs ICP-MS

Image of tooth enamel and an X-ray of the jaw showing area imaged

Revealing dietary changes hidden in teeth

Teeth form sequentially during prenatal life, infancy and childhood. Once formed, tooth enamel is not remodelled and retains the isotopic signature laid down during formation.

In this example LA-ICP-MS was used to determine the age at which infants were weaned from milk to solid food.

Selected teeth from individuals spanning the ages of interest were analysed (see X-ray images on the left).

Significant markers in the teeth were used to work out their structural chronology, such as the:

  • enamel dentine junction (lower arrow)
  • neo-natal line (upper arrow)

Instrument: (ESI) New Wave UP193FX Laser Ablation System coupled to Agilent 7500cs ICP-MS

Contact details

For further information or to arrange to use the instrument contact:

Dr Teresa Jeffries
Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5362
Fax: +44 (0)20 7942 5811
Email