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What is a Spray Chamber?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 17, 2024
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A spray chamber is used in the process of ICP-MS spectrometry. Spray chambers are used at a certain point in the process where a fine spray is developed and then stored in a chamber where argon is then mixed in. The essential responsibility of spray chambers is to ensure that only droplets that are small and narrow in size make it through to the plasma. A majority of the material being sampled is drained from the chamber and the remainder is introduced to plasma where it is excited by high temperatures.

Spray chambers are most commonly used during the process of ICP-MS. ICP-MS stands for inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer. ICP-MS is a very sensitive, time-efficient system used to measure the electrical concentration of various solutions. Using ICP-MS, as many as 75 individual elements can be determined, even if the element has only one part per billion in the solution.

There are many steps in the ICP-MS procedure that allow scientists to analyze elements. The initial step in the process is to convert the molecules in a sample substance to individual atoms and ions. This is done by subjecting the sample to high-temperature radio frequency argon plasma. A pump carries the sample to a nebulizer and it is converted to a fine spray.

The fine spray is then held in the spray chamber where it is mixed with an argon plasma. In the chamber, a majority of the sample is drained away while the rest is carried along in the process. The remainder of the sample mixed with the argon plasma is then subjected to high heat and ionized for particle spectrum analysis.

There are a multitude of different ICP-MS machines used for the analysis of samples. Therefore, there are also different types of spray chambers. Some of the different types available are the Althea, the Libra, the Electron and the Poistron.

The Althea is used for high throughput at high intake. The Libra is a cyclonic baffled spray chamber used for low solvents. The Electron is a mini-cyclonic spray chamber for low uptake and quick throughput. The Poistron is a mini-cyclonic baffled spray chamber used for low uptake and a minimum solvent load.

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