Tracking traces of transition metals present in concrete mixtures by inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry studies

Ghada Bassioni, Avin E. Pillay, Mirella El Kadi, Fadi Fegali, Sai Cheong Fok, Sasi Stephen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transition metals can have a significant impact in research related to the dosage optimization of superplasticizers. It is known that the presence of transition metals can influence such doses, and the application of a contemporary instrumental method to obtain the profiles of subsisting transition elements in concrete mixtures would be useful. In this work, inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is investigated as a possible tool to track traces of transition metals in concrete mixtures. Depth profiling using ICP-MS on proofed and unproofed concrete shows the presence of Sc, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu and Zn at trace intensities in the bulk of the samples under investigation. The study demonstrates that the transition metals present in the concrete sample are largely a part of the cement composition and, to a minor degree, a result of exposure to the seawater after curing. The coated concrete samples have a metal distribution pattern similar to the uncoated samples, but slight differences in intensity bear testimony to the very low levels that originate from the exposure to seawater. While X-ray diffraction fails to detect these traces of metals, ICP-MS is successful in detecting ultra-trace intensities to parts per trillion. This method is not only a useful application to track traces of transition metals in concrete, but also provides information to estimate the pore size distribution in a given sample by very simple means.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-692
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Mass Spectrometry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Depth profiling
  • ICP-MS
  • Laser ablation
  • Transition metals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Spectroscopy
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics

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