2011 Mass Spectrometer Product Survey Results

By Lab Manager

Mass spectrometry (MS) is the art of measuring atoms and molecules to determine their molecular weight. MS involves the ionization of chemical samples to generate charged molecules or molecular fragments and measuring their mass-to charge ratio.

Standard in all mass spectrometers are four fundamental parts—a sample inlet, an ionization source, a mass analyzer and an ion detector. Some instruments combine the sample inlet and the ionization source, while others combine the mass analyzer and the detector. However, all sample molecules undergo the same processes regardless of instrument configuration. Sample molecules are introduced into the instrument through a sample inlet. Once inside the instrument, the sample molecules are converted to ions in the ionization source, before being electrostatically propelled into the mass analyzer. Ions are then separated according to their m/z within the mass analyzer. The detector converts the ion energy into electrical signals, which are then transmitted to a computer for analysis.

A wide range of ionization techniques are available that are both robust and trustworthy on a variety of instruments with demonstrated capabilities. In selecting a mass spectrometer, the lab must decide whether they need a standalone instrument or an integrated system that combines mass spectrometry with other analytical techniques, such as GC or LC. The appropriate choice of system depends on the properties of the sample. Among the respondents, the most common standalone instruments are ICP-MS and TOF.

Most common types of standalone mass spectrometers in our readers' labs:

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) 24%
Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) 7%
Thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) 8%
Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) mass spectrometry 2%
Time-of-Flight (TOF) 17%
Don’t know 19%
Other 23%

Mass spectrometry is frequently combined with separation techniques to form powerful and widely-used integrated systems such as GC-MS, LC-MS or MS-MS-GC. The most common integrated systems in our readers' labs are GC/MS and LC/MS Quadrupole.

GC/MS Time of Flight (TOF) 4%
GC/MS Quadrupole 22%
GC/MS Ion Trap 8%
GC/MS Electron Ionization (EI) 16%
LC/MS Quadrupole 17%
LC/MS Ion Trap 10%
LC/MS Time of Flight (TOF) 10%
Don’t know 4%
Other 4%

Once the domain of organic chemistry labs and a variety of other analytical applications, mass spectrometry techniques are gaining more acceptance among pharmaceutical researchers involved in drug discovery and development and biochemists looking to expand the use of mass spectrometry to protein and peptide analysis. Clinical chemists are also adopting mass spectrometry, replacing the less-certain results of immunoassays for drug testing and neonatal screening while food safety and environmental researchers are turning to mass spectrometry for water quality studies and to measure pesticide residues in foods. Before a lab considers which mass spectrometry techniques to implement, they should consider the type of analyses they perform and the kind of results they expect.

Most common uses for mass spectrometry in our readers' labs:

We analyze large molecules, such as proteins and peptides. 14%
We analyze pure, low-molecular weight organic compounds 41%
We perform a comprehensive analysis of complex mixtures of high molecular weight compounds 15%
Other 30%

Mass spectrometry is morphing from a research tool into an analytical instrument; today more and more lab professionals from various areas of research within chemistry, biochemistry, and physics regularly depend on mass spectrometric analysis. Researchers can choose among a range of ionization techniques that have become robust and trustworthy on a variety of instruments with demonstrated capabilities. A majority of the respondents planning to purchase a mass spectrometry system are looking for a complete system that includes data handling and storage, more mass accuracy and resolution, higher quality of data and shorter run times, and increased lab throughput.

A major sticking point for many labs is the price tag for mass spectrometry—one instrument can cost as much as $300,000. However, according to experts, the technology will improve overall research performance and save money in the long run.

An important concern among respondents is whether or not they have the appropriate personnel, hence staff training is key in the decision-making process.

Experts recommend that labs considering a purchase of mass spectrometry should review their options, prepare very detailed plans, and be prepared to adapt as issues arise.

Top ten factors buyers include in their decision-making process to buy a mass spectrometer:

High sensitivity 93%
Reliability 93%
Ease of maintenance 92%
Higher quality of data 87%
High mass resolution 86%
Data output, storage and retrieval 85%
Warranties 85%
High mass accuracy 84%
Training 79%
Availability of techniques 73%

For more information on Mass Spectrometry, visit www.labmanager.com/ms 

Completed Surveys: 284

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Published In

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What Motivates Your Employees

Published: September 9, 2011

Cover Story

What Motivates Your Employees?

It is ever more difficult to argue that motivating knowledge workers is not the Holy Grail for 21st century lab managers. “Leadership,” according to management consultants, “is the process of motivating people to work together to accomplish great things."