In analytical chemistry, the detection limit, lower limit of detection, or LOD (limit of detection), is the lowest quantity of a substance that can be distinguished from the absence of that substance (a blank value) within a stated confidence limit (generally 1%)
The detection limit is estimated from the mean of the blank, the standard deviation of the blank and some confidence factor. Another consideration that affects the detection limit is the accuracy of the model used to predict concentration from the raw analytical signal.
There are a number of different detection limits that are commonly used. These include the instrument detection limit (IDL), the method detection limit (MDL), the practical quantification limit (PQL), and the limit of quantification (LOQ). Even when the same terminology is used, there can be differences in the LOD according to nuances of what definition is used and what type of noise contributes to the measurement and calibration.
The figure below illustrates the relationship between the blank, the limit of detection (LOD), and the limit of quantification (LOQ) by showing the probability density function for normally distributed measurements at the blank, at the LOD defined as 3 * standard deviation of the blank, and at the LOQ defined as 10 * standard deviation of the blank. For a signal at the LOD, the alpha error (probability of false positive) is small (1%). However, the beta error (probability of a false negative) is 50% for a sample that has a concentration at the LOD (red line). This means a sample could contain an impurity at the LOD, but there is a 50% chance that a measurement would give a result less than the LOD. At the LOQ (blue line), there is minimal chance of a false negative.