Analysis of small droplets with a new detector for liquid chromatography based on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy


The miniaturization of analytical techniques is a general trend in speciation analytics. We have developed a new analytical technique combining high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) with laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). This enables a molecule-specific separation followed by an element-specific analysis of smallest amounts of complex samples. The liquid flow coming from a HPLC pump is transformed into a continuous stream of small droplets (diameter 50-100 m, volume 65 – 500 pl) using a piezoelectric pulsed nozzle. After the detection of single droplets with a droplet detector, a Q-switched Nd:YAG Laser is triggered to emit a synchronized laser pulse that irradiates a single droplet. The droplets are evaporated and transformed to the plasma state. The spectrum emitted from the plasma is collected by a spherical mirror and directed through the entrance slit of a Paschen-Runge-spectrometer equipped with channel photomultipliers. The spectrometer detects 31 elements simultaneously covering a spectral range from 120 to 589 nm. Purging the measurement chamber with argon enables the detection of vacuum-UV lines. Since the sample is transferred to the plasma state without dilution, very low flow rates in the sub-µl/min range can be realised.
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