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A Critical Comparison of Ar and Ar-N2 Inductively Coupled Plasmas as Excitation Sources for Atomic Emission Spectrometry

Volume 35, Number 3 (June 1981) Page 292-302

Montaser, Akbar; Fassel, V.A.; Zalewski, J.


Ar-N2 plasmas generated by introducing N2 into the outer and the aerosol carrier gas flows were investigated using a 5 kW, 27.12 MHz crystal-controlled rf generator. The dependence of plasma geometry, plasma background intensity, net analyte emission intensity, signal/background ratio, signal/noise ratios, and the detection limits on forward power (1000 to 4000 W), the outer gas flow (15 to 50 liters/min) and aerosol carrier gas flow (1 to 2.5 liters/min), sample uptake rate (1 to 5 ml/min), and gas composition (0 to 100% N2) were studied for observation heights of 5 to 40 mm. Measurements were conducted simultaneously for 20 ion and neutral atom spectral lines. Ultrasonic nebulization, with aerosol desolvation, was employed. Except for the observation height, which was 10 mm, the optimum conditions for Ar-N2 plasmas containing 5 to 15% N2 in the outer gas flow were roughly identical to those of a conventional Ar plasma. When pure N2 was used in the outer flow, two sets of optimum conditions, quite different than the optimum conditions for the conventional Ar plasma, were found for the high and medium excitation energy lines. Detection limits and signal/background ratios of ion and neutral atom lines of the high excitation energies, excited in a pure Ar plasma, were superior to the results obtained in the Ar-N2 plasma when pure N2 was used in the outer flow. The opposite trend was observed for neutral atom lines of medium excitation energies. The use of N2 aerosol carrier gas, when the outer gas flow was pure Ar, deteriorated the detection limits of all elements.