The quantification of elements at ultra-trace concentrations, in some cases at the ppq (10-15 relative) level, makes extreme demands of the executing laboratory. In addition to the most sensitive instrumental techniques, facilities for the handling and preparation of sensitive sample types without risk for contamination must be available.
ALS Scandinavia’s laboratory in Luleå, Sweden, has been specially designed for trace and ultra-trace elemental analyses for both industrial and environmentally related applications. Numerous measures have been taken to fulfil these demands, some of the most important being presented here.
All materials coming into contact with samples are analyzed in-house to ensure that such potential sources of contamination are avoided. An acid dishwasher cleans auto sampler tubes and sample collection vessels for laboratory use and supply to customers to prevent sample contamination.
Water is purified by reverse osmosis, deionization (Milli-Q system), and, for sensitive sample types, sub-boiling distillation in Teflon stills (DDIW). High purity nitric acid for sample digestion and acidification of solutions is also prepared by sub-boiling distillation in quartz stills. Such measures have resulted in significant improvements in analytical quality.
We currently operate 14 ICP-SFMS, each instrument is assigned a main specific suite of carefully selected sample types in order to minimize risks for inter-sample contamination. For example, digested blood samples contain about 500 mg/L Fe and obviously an instrument routinely exposed to such clinical specimens would be a poor choice for the analysis of seawater where Fe may be present at sub-μg/L levels. On the other hand, an ICP-SFMS reserved for seawater analysis (samples containing 11000 mg/L Na) can not be used for semiconductor grade chemicals (Na in low ng/L-range).
Through longstanding co-operation with Luleå University of Technology, we can also offer the high precision measurement of isotope ratios with MC-ICP-SFMS. This cutting edge analytical technique can provide research quality data on the isotopic composition of elements for a range of applications.
Edmonton (Organic contaminants)
The North American Centre of Excellence laboratory is housed in a 17,000 square foot, state of the art, purpose built facility using a modern, open concept laboratory design. This new laboratory is the result of amalgamating two highly technical and innovative groups formerly housed in the main Edmonton environmental laboratory, the GLP-Pesticides and the Special Chemistries groups.
The Centre for Excellence laboratory will offer the most advanced analytical, toxicological and technical capabilities in the industry. The laboratory is equipped with high resolution GC/MS, triple quadrapole LC/MS, and ICP/MS spectrometers to conduct trace organic and trace metal characterizations, metals spectiation, full dioxin testing in addition to GLP pesticide/herbicide testing. The Centre of Excellence laboratory can provide chemical information concerning; levels of pesticides and associated metabolites, specialty chemicals, food safety, forensics, and environmental/human health. This division is also capable of developing new technologies as well as new analytical methods and offers these services under both ISO 17025 and GLP quality systems.