Lab Manager

What Do Mass Spectrometer Users Have to Say?

Learn the most common sample types analyzed and more from the latest mass spectrometer user survey results

By Erica Tennenhouse

Mass spectrometers, measuring the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles to determine their molecular weight, have not quite become a routine acquisition for every lab that might benefit from them. Four parts are standard in all mass spectrometers: a sample inlet, an ionization source, a mass analyzer, and an ion detector.

Top 6 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a Mass Spectrometer

  1. What factors come into play when determining the MS specifications you require in terms of throughput, sensitivity, robustness, software control, ease of use, and ease of maintenance?
  2. What differentiates the vendor’s MS from others offered, in terms of performance and how easy it would be to upgrade?
  3. How do you validate the specification claims presented by the vendor?
  4. Has the data processing software been designed for enhanced analytics, with lab workflow in mind and does it support critical compliance requirements?
  5. What are important price points to keep in mind when selecting an MS?
  6. Laboratories need fast and effective services, including an effective distribution of spare parts, instruments, service personnel, and education/ training. How does the company serve these needs globally?

Primary application for mass spectrometer use as reported by survey respondents:

Test water quality or food contamination 32%
Determine structures of drugs and metabolites 30%
Other 30%
Quantitate (relative or absolute) proteins in a given sample 26%
Determine protein structure, function, folding, and interactions 21%
Screen for metabolites in biological systems 20%
Detect disease biomarkers 16%
Detect specific post-translational modifications throughout complex biological mixtures 14%
Perform forensic analyses 12%
Sequence oligonucleotides 3%

Sample types analyzed by survey respondents

Blood, body fluids, and cultures 32%
Drinking water 26%
Human blood and body fluids 26%
Animal tissue 25%
Pharmaceuticals 25%
Food and food related products 22%
Waste water 21%
Soils 19%
Air 17%
Clinical samples 17%
Plants 17%
Polymers 15%
Petroleum and related products 13%
Gases 12%
Metals 10%
Oils 10%
Rocks and minerals 10%
Controlled substances/narcotics 6%
Cosmetics 6%

Some of the most exciting applications of mass spectrometry, as reported by survey respondents:

  • Metabolomics
  • Structure elucidation
  • SIMS analysis
  • Intact protein analysis
  • Aerosol chemistry
  • Forensic analysis of contaminated currency
  • PK analysis

For more information on mass spectrometers, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit

See survey results from previous years:

Categories: Surveys

Published In

Funding Science in the Trump Era

Published: October 13, 2017

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