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Towards Automated and High-Throughput Quantitative Sizing and Isotopic Analysis of Nanoparticles via Single Particle-ICP-TOF-MS

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The work described herein assesses the ability to characterize gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) of 50 and 100 nm, as well as 60 nm silver shelled gold core nanospheres (Au/Ag NPs), for their mass, respective size, and isotopic composition in an automated and unattended fashion. Here, an innovative autosampler was employed to mix and transport the blanks, standards, and samples into a high-efficiency single particle (SP) introduction system for subsequent analysis by inductively coupled plasma–time of flight–mass spectrometry (ICP-TOF-MS). Optimized NP transport efficiency into the ICP-TOF-MS was determined to be >80%. This combination, SP-ICP-TOF-MS, allowed for high-throughput sample analysis. Specifically, 50 total samples (including blanks/standards) were analyzed over 8 h, to provide an accurate characterization of the NPs. This methodology was implemented over the course of 5 days to assess its long-term reproducibility. Impressively, the in-run and day-to-day variation of sample transport is assessed to be 3.54 and 9.52% relative standard deviation (%RSD), respectively. The determination of Au NP size and concentration was of <5% relative difference from the certified values over these time periods. Isotopic characterization of the 107Ag/109Ag particles (n = 132,630) over the course of the measurements was determined to be 1.0788 ± 0.0030 with high accuracy (0.23% relative difference) when compared to the multi-collector–ICP-MS determination.