ICAP – WORKHORSE OF MATERION'S ANALYTICAL LAB
When it is critical to accurately measure the concentration of the major components and trace elements in the hundreds of pure metals and alloys produced at Materion’s Buffalo and Brewster, NY facility, ICAP is our tool of choice. The abbreviation stands for Inductively Coupled Atomic Plasma, which is a shorter version of the official name ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometer). It is a technique that is used for the chemical analysis of a variety of materials, and employed by Materion to provide an accurate determination of the precious metal content in a wide variety of our customer’s reclaimed and refined materials.
ICAP or “ICP” analysis is probably the most useful technique available today for measuring chemical elements in a extensive range of substances that include minerals, metals, soils, agricultural and food products, biological fluids, motor oils and a multitude of environmental materials. It has the capability of quickly checking the concentration of up to 70 chemical elements in a single material sample of material. Another advantage of the ICP technique is its broad working range of up to six “orders of magnitude,” which means that the concentration of the elements in a sample can be determined from less than 0.001% to nearly 100%.
Materion maintains one of the most comprehensive analytical laboratories in the marketplace. In the Buffalo analytical laboratory, our four ICP instruments are in almost constant use, testing as many as 100-150 samples daily. An important application of ICP analysis is in assuring that our products meet both our own and our customer’s specifications for purity, and for composition in the case of our alloy products. In addition to providing analytical support for products manufactured at our Buffalo and Brewster, NY locations, our facilities provide ICP analysis and other analytical services to Materion locations in Europe and the Far East. This testing also supports our refining and recycling services.
Although the underlying process of an ICP analysis can be very complex, the basic principle is simple. The sample to be analyzed is heated to a very high temperature (about 8000 ºC), in a stream of superheated, ionized argon gas (“plasma”) which causes the atoms that compose the material emit light. Atoms of each of the chemical elements emit light at known wavelengths (or “colors”, in the case of visible light). The ICP instrument identifies the various wavelengths of light emitted by a sample to identify the elements that make up the sample, and measures the intensity of each wavelength to determine the concentration of that element.