The last decade witnessed considerable progress in the development of laser ablation/ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LI-TOFMS). The improvement of both the laser ablation ion sources employing femtosecond lasers and the method of ion coupling with the mass analyser led to highly sensitive element and isotope measurements, minimisation of matrix effects, and reduction of various fractionation effects. This improvement of instrumental performance can be attributed to the progress in laser technology and accompanying commercialisation of fs-laser systems, as well as the availability of fast electronics and data acquisition systems. Application of femtosecond laser radiation to ablate the sample causes negligible thermal effects, which in turn allows for improved resolution of chemical surface imaging and depth profiling. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor ns-LIMS, fs-LIMS, which employs fs-laser ablation ion sources, has been developed in the last two decades as an important method of chemical analysis and will continue to improve its performance in subsequent decades. This review discusses the background of fs-laser ablation, overviews the most relevant instrumentation and emphasises their performance figures, and summarizes the studies on several applications, including geochemical, semiconductor, and bio-relevant materials. Improving the chemical analysis is expected by the implementation of laser pulse sequences or pulse shaping methods and shorter laser wavelengths providing current progress in mass resolution achieved in fs-LIMS. In parallel, advancing the methods of data analysis has the potential of making this technique very attractive for 3D chemical analysis with micrometre lateral and sub-micrometre vertical resolution.
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