HELGES – ICP Optical Emission Spectrometer

GFZ - German Research Centre for Geosciences
last updated: July 19, 2023

About the Laboratory

HELGES – ICP Optical Emission Spectrometer

GFZ - German Research Centre for Geosciences
@ Section 3.3 Earth Surface Geochemistry
This Laboratory is part of:


  • Tbd
Visit us on our website in DE / EN


The ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometer) allows simultaneous detection and quantification of most elements in solutions at concentrations ranging from a few ng/g (ppb) to hundreds of µg/g (ppm). We analyse a wide selection of environmental samples for element concentrations, ranging from rock, soil, river water, seawater, and plant materials. We routinely analyse and quantify the following Elements: Li, Be, B, Na, Mg, Al, Si, P, S, K, Ca, Sc, Ti, Cr, Mn, Fe, Ni, Co, Cu, Zn, Ga, Ge, Rb, Sr, Ag, Cd, Ba, Pb, Bi.
The HELGES laboratories are equipped with two types of optical spectrometers. The Varian 720-ES ICP-OES with the axial plasma view configuration offers high sensitivity with low detection limits, particularly designed for low concentration samples. The Thermo Scientific iCAP 6000 ICP-OES has a radial plasma view with high tolerance for high dissolved solids and other complex matrices due to lower levels of matrix interferences.
For most applications we use ICP-OES analyses on solutions, hence, solids must be dissolved prior to analyses. There are several methods of dissolution using different acids (nitric, hydrochloric, hydrofluoric acid) or alkali fusion (e.g., NaOH). The amount of sample needed depends on the element of interest and if it is a major (wt%) or minor (ppm) component of the sample. Typically, for rocks or plants (wood, leaves) 50 – 100 mg powdered sample is needed, for water samples (stream or ground water) about 1 – 10 ml is used, which is typically further diluted to a minimum of 2-5 ml for quantitative simultaneous determination of cations. ICP-OES is a relative measurement method and therefore the instrument requires calibration prior to each measurement. To obtain accurate results the calibration standards need to be prepared in a similar matrix than the samples to be analysed. Hence, a rough estimate of the sample composition is required, which might be obtained by a first screening analyses by ICP-OES or by other analytical methods.
The capabilities of qualitative and quantitative detection varies strongly between different elements, and some elements cannot be analysed using ICP-OES. Levels of detection vary for each cation, ranging from 0.001 to 0.1 µg/ml.


  • ICP-OES, Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometer

Analytical Methods

  • ICP-OES, Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometry, Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry, Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy

Laboratory Keywords