Quantitative analysis of metal impurities in carbon nanotubes: Efficacy of different pretreatment protocols for ICPMS spectroscopy

Cuicui Ge, Fang Lao, Wei Li, Yufeng Li, Chunying Chen, Yang Qiu, Xueying Mao, Bai Li, Zhifang Chai, Yuliang Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Metal impurities in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are undesirable for their uses in diverse applications, for instance, they may potentially have a negative health impact when using in biomedical fields. However, so far there is a lack of analysis methods able to quantify metallic impurities in CNTs. In this paper, using the neutron activation analysis (NAA) technique as a nondestructive standard quantification method and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS) as a practical approach, we established an analytical method for quantitative determination of metallic impurities in CNTs. ICPMS, one of the most sensitive analytical techniques used for coincident multielement measurements, has become a common tool in many laboratory, and thus it is easily available and a good selection for determining the metal impurities in CNTs. However, because of their extremely stable structure and the encapsulated metals in the defect structure, CNTs must undergo special pretreatments before ICPMS. We investigated different sample pretreatment procedures for ICPMS analysis, including dry ashing coupled with acid extraction, wet digestion, and a combination of dry ashing with acid digestion. With the reference data from the nondestructive analytical method of NAA, we found that the quantitative determination of metal impurities in CNTs is highly dependent on the sample pretreatment in which the conditions are largely different from those used for conventional biological samples or environmental materials. This paper not only provides the practical method and analysis conditions for quantifying the metal impurities of CNTs but also the first protocol for pretreatment processes of CNT samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9426-9434
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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