Atomic spectroscopy:
Spotlight on ICP-QQQ, ICP-MS, and ICP-OES

Atomic spectroscopy is the collective name for a group of analytical techniques used to determine the elemental composition of a sample from its electromagnetic or mass spectrum. Atomic spectroscopy is commonly used to detect and quantify elements in fields including environmental, food and beverage, materials, and pharmaceutical analysis, due to its ability to provide rapid and reliable results.

Laboratories around the world value knowing their Agilent instruments will provide the answers they need, when they need them. Driven by insights from customers from around the world, Agilent has created an innovative and comprehensive atomic spectroscopy portfolio, encompassing instruments, consumables, standards, services, software, and more.

Your choice of atomic spectroscopy technique is dependent on the analytical requirements of your lab and your target applications in terms of speed, detection limits, and the elements you are looking for. In the resource below, we explore three key atomic spectroscopy techniques: inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES), inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and triple quadrupole or tandem ICP-MS (ICP-QQQ or ICP-MS/MS). For each technique, we highlight how Agilent instrumentation can help deliver effective elemental analysis and give you the confidence of knowing your results are accurate.

How to choose the right atomic spectroscopy technique

The value of knowing that you've selected the right atomic spectroscopy technique is immense. Selecting the wrong one might mean you can't measure all the elements you need to. It might mean you can't measure them at low enough levels. It might mean that completing a sample batch is unbearably slow.

This eBook is perfect for labs contemplating which atomic spectroscopy technique to select: AA, MP-AED, ICP-OES, or ICP-MS. The eBook includes an introduction to how each technique works,  side-by-side comparison tables, and discussion of the common applications of each technique. Sample preparation methods are also covered, as well as calibration approaches.


Triple quadrupole or tandem ICP-MS (ICP-QQQ or ICP-MS/MS) delivers the highest analytical performance to address the most demanding applications. Compared to single quadrupole ICP-MS, ICP-MS/MS offers even higher sensitivity, lower background, and better interference control. Analysts will value knowing it’s the ideal technique for handling challenging sample types and difficult elements. The 8900 improves confidence in your results, making it ideal for trace level analysis in high-matrix samples and for detecting impurities in ultra-high-purity materials and process chemicals.

Complementing Agilent single quadrupole ICP-MS systems, the 8900 Triple Quadrupole ICP-MS by Agilent Technologies uses reactive cell gases and MS/MS to deliver unmatched control of spectral interferences. But it also provides the same robustness, matrix tolerance, and easy-to-use helium collision mode performance as an Agilent single quadrupole ICP-MS. The 8900 is ICP-MS without compromises, using MS/MS operation to deliver the most powerful and flexible multi-element analysis.

The 8900 ICP-MS/MS from Agilent Technologies

8900 ICP-MS/MS from Agilent Technologies

Great results for trace levels!
"It`s great equipment if you need to work with trace levels isotopes. The software is easy to use and the results are reproducible. The plasma stability is pretty fast compared with older ICP MS or OES."

Barbara Francisco
University of Ottawa

This video celebrates 10+ years of advances enabled by proven MS/MS technology >>


Compared to other atomic spectroscopy techniques, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry offers lower detection limits, wider dynamic range, and simpler spectra. ICP-MS can also measure different isotopes of an element, enabling isotope ratio applications to be run. These capabilities have made ICP-MS an invaluable technique to address tightening regulations across industries from environmental monitoring, food safety, and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Agilent ICP-MS instruments are available in both single quadrupole and triple quadrupole configurations. Single quadrupole ICP-MS instrumentation such as the 7850 ICP-MS from Agilent Technologies address measurements from routine, regulated analysis to advanced research. The 7850 ICP-MS uses Ultra High Matrix Introduction to allow direct analysis of high matrix samples, while common spectral interferences are resolved using helium collision mode. The 7850 uses predefined methods and standard operating procedures to simplify routine setup. Streamlined analysis combines with early maintenance feedback functions to reduce wasted time in the lab, freeing workflows from common time traps without compromising performance.

The 7850 ICP-MS from Agilent Technologies

7850 ICP-MS from Agilent Technologies

Great sensitivity and easy to use.
"The Agilent ICP-MS is very easy to use and user friendly with mass hunter software. Higher sensitivity. Much quicker analysis. Low maintenance."

Sanjay Ramani
Johnson Matthey Pharma Service

In this video, find out how to effectively free your ICP-MS workflow from common time traps >>


Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy is one of the most popular multipurpose atomic spectroscopy techniques for the detection of trace elements in a variety of sample types. ICP-OES offers simple method development and operation by all lab users, enables simultaneous analysis of multiple elements, and promises low limits of detection, low interference, and a large dynamic range.

The 5800 ICP-OES from Agilent Technologies is a smart ICP system with the powerful ICP Expert software and an ecosystem of embedded sensors, algorithms, and diagnostics that are designed to identify problems before they happen, maximizing uptime and minimizing the number of samples that require remeasurement. Analysts can reclaim time they might currently spend remeasuring samples.

The 5800 ICP-OES from Agilent Technologies

5800 ICP-OES from Agilent Technologies

Accurate results and easy to do sample preparation.
"Very useful to analyze elemental impurities in water and soil samples. Very clear sample preparation guidelines."

Azizur Rahman
Center for Climate Change Research

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