Analysis of Major and Trace Elements in Rocks, Sediments, and Interstitial Waters by Inductively Coupled Plasma–Atomic Emission Spectrometry (ICP-AES)1, 2

R.W. Murray,3 D. Jay Miller,4 and K.A. Kryc3


This Technical Note is designed to offer principles and guidelines for geochemical analysis by inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES) on board the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) drillship JOIDES Resolution. The goal is to provide background instructions so that various types of samples (including igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, sediments, and interstitial waters) may be analyzed for a comprehensive suite of major and trace elements. This Technical Note is not intended to be a stand-alone document explaining all the parameters of ICP-AES (appropriate references to that end are supplied below), but instead we hope to provide the fundamentals of sample preparation, analysis, and data reduction, resulting in high-quality shipboard analytical data. The critical advantage of ICP-AES is that rapid and quantitative analysis of a variety of sample types can be conducted relatively easily with a single instrument.

Care has been taken to ensure that these instructions are not overly instrument or software specific. The sections on basic ICP principles, sample preparation, recommended wavelengths, and the like are not unique to the Jobin-Yvon JY2000 instrument currently on board the Resolution. Where necessary, however, instrument-specific guidelines are provided. Accordingly, several passages in this technical note have been based on the owner's manual provided by Jobin-Yvon (JY), manufacturer of the JY2000, as well as on notes from the Boston University Analytical Geochemistry Laboratory. A companion booklet of detailed software notes from Boston University has also been provided to the ODP Chemistry Laboratory. Additional information may be found in the "Explanatory Notes" of the Legs 187-189 Initial Reports volumes of the Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program (Shipboard Scientific Party, in press a, in press b, in press c) because these legs were the first to use the shipboard ICP-AES for igneous rock (Leg 187) and interstitial water (Legs 188 and 189) analyses.

A list of ICP-AES references is included in "Useful References Discussing ICP-AES Techniques," copies of which are available on board the Resolution. Although in some cases there is more information in these publications than is necessary to operate the JY2000 instrument, readers are encouraged to become familiar with the content to enable them to customize key aspects of the sample preparation and analytical procedures to best meet project-specific needs. Furthermore, the methodologies and procedures described here do not maximize the capabilities of the instrument, and individual shipboard scientists may choose to target particular chemical elements not discussed below. These publications will assist them in their endeavors.

1Murray, R.W., Miller, D.J., Kryc, K.A., 2000. Analysis of major and trace elements in rocks, sediments, and interstitial waters by inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES). ODP Tech. Note, 29 [Online]. Available from World Wide Web: <>. [Cited YYYY-MM-DD]

2See Disclaimer.

3Department of Earth Sciences, Boston University, Boston MA 02215, USA.

4Ocean Drilling Program, Texas A&M University, 1000 Discovery Drive, College Station TX 77845-9547, USA.