In this study, the information that can be obtained by combining normal and high resolution single particle ICP-MS (spICP-MS) measurements for spherical bimetallic nanoparticles (BNPs) was assessed. One commercial certified core-shell Au-Ag nanoparticle and three newly synthesized and fully characterized homogenous alloy Au-Ag nanoparticle batches of different composition were used in the experiments as BNP samples. By scrutinizing the high resolution spICP-MS signal time profiles, it was revealed that the width of the signal peak linearly correlates with the diameter of nanoparticles. It was also observed that the width of the peak for same-size nanoparticles is always significantly larger for Au than for Ag. It was also found that it can be reliably determined whether a BNP is of homogeneus alloy or core-shell structure and that, in the case of the latter, the core comprises of which element. We also assessed the performance of several ICP-MS based analytical methods in the analysis of the quantitative composition of bimetallic nanoparticles. Out of the three methods (normal resolution spICP-MS, direct NP nebulization with solution-mode ICP-MS, and solution-mode ICP-MS after the acid dissolution of the nanoparticles), the best accuracy and precision was achieved by spICP-MS. This method allows the determination of the composition with less than 10% relative inaccuracy and better than 3% precision. The analysis is fast and only requires the usual standard colloids for size calibration. Combining the results from both quantitative and structural analyses, the core diameter and shell thickness of core-shell particles can also be calculated.
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