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Innovations in Mass Spectrometry

Featured mass spectrometry technology to help the lab

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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Damon Anderson, PhD

Damon Anderson, PhD, is the technology editor at He can be reached at

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Mass spectrometry (MS) has become a vital technology for many different kinds of labs, ranging from cutting edge biotech research to characterizing complex petroleum materials. The types and uses of MS are constantly evolving and developing. The 2022 American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) conference in Minneapolis, MN was a great place to see the latest developments in MS. Many of the leading MS companies introduced new ideas, models, and software at the meeting. From our tour through the conference, we identified several new products that can help labs better use the power and specificity of MS to solve their technical challenges.

HyrdoInert from Agilent

One of the most exciting new developments at the conference was the HydroInert source from Agilent. This new source is intended to enable GC/MS experiments with hydrogen as the carrier gas instead of helium. For years, helium has become more scarce and more expensive. Many labs have turned their GC experiments over to hydrogen, but it has been more difficult to convert some GC/MS experiments due to problems with reduction of the analytes in the source. These in-source reactions then change the electron ionization patterns of the analytes, making library matching more difficult. The new HydroInert source helps to improve sensitivity, speed up runs, and reduce spectral anomalies.

The HydroInert source is also available on the new 5977C GC/MSD instrument, which addresses a wide range of lab MS needs, including environmental, food testing, chemical, petrochemical, forensics, and pharma applications. Another advantage of this new instrument is onboard intelligence to aid remote monitoring, maintenance, and diagnosing problems.

Another instrument from Agilent with the new onboard intelligence systems is the 6475 triple quadrupole LC-MS/MS. Its innovative features include the superheated Agilent jet stream ion source, a curved and tapered collision cell to improve efficiency, heated hyperbolic quadrupoles, and a 20kV high-energy dynode detector system. The wide mass range allows the analysis of many classes of analyte, and the technical and procedural controls enable compliance to US FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulations.

TimsTOF systems from Bruker

Bruker continues to improve the successful timsTOF family of instruments that combine high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometry with powerful ion mobility controlled by advanced software. The new timsTOF HT offers higher dynamic range, extended peptide coverage, and more accurate quantitation for high-throughput proteomics experiments. Rohan Thakur, president of Bruker Daltonics, indicates that the timsTOF HT was developed to offer more dynamic range, more latitude, and more flexibility to proteomics researchers. The system can analyze 50 to 200 samples per day with better than one percent false discovery rates.

To extend these technical advantages to labs investigating metabolomics and biomarkers, Bruker introduced the timsTOF Pro 2. It contains workflows enabling robust, high-speed, population-level investigations of biomarkers and small molecules. Early studies indicate that the system is powerful and robust. The instrument can run 24/7 for many weeks without loss of performance, even on complex samples like non-depleted plasma digests.

To deliver improved performance to MALDI imaging experiments, the new MALDI HiPLEX-IHC and timsTOF Microgrid were introduced. The MALDI HiPLEX-IHC ties together labeled protein expression mapping and small molecule imaging, allowing greater insight into the cellular biology. Professor Ron Heeren of Maastricht University commented that these more powerful mass spectrometers are enabling “interdisciplinary scientists to make translational science work.” The timsTOF Microgrid improves the stage to submicron precision and corrects laser positioning down to five microns, which helps to eliminate visual artifacts, and enable single cell imaging. These improvements bring new levels of resolution that translate MALDI imaging into the language of pathologists. 

New LC-MS instruments from Shimadzu

The new LCMS-9050 QTOF from Shimadzu produces high mass resolution, high dynamic range with four orders of magnitude, and high mass accuracy through high-precision temperature control. This new instrument incorporates high-speed polarity switching to enable the simultaneous detection of positive and negative analyte ions. According to Chris Gilles, the LC-MS product manager at Shimadzu, “The challenge is to keep mass accuracy very high, even when switching thousands of volts.”

The new LCMS-2050 is a high-performing, small-footprint, single-quadrupole MS instrument. It is ideal for labs seeking greater specificity in LC experiments. The source combines ESI and APCI capabilities to analyze a wide range of compounds in many applications. Gilles adds that Shimadzu wants to “make it easy on the LC user.”

OMEGATOF from CovalX and Shimadzu

The OmegaTOF is a benchtop MALDI instrument built in collaboration between Shimadzu and CovalX. It combines the compact, linear, high-performance MALDI components from Shimadzu with megadalton detection from CovalX. Large molecules like antibodies, protein complexes, protein aggregates, virus-like particles, and large molecules (IgM or KLH) can be analyzed with high sensitivity up to 1.5 MDa. 

Xevo G3 QTof from Waters

The G3 is the latest Xevo QTof from Waters. It incorporates improved ion optics for better robustness and performance with new ion guides to reduce in-source fragmentation. The instrument provides high-resolution, high-quality quantitative and qualitative MS data up to five orders of magnitude, and the DRE detector prevents saturation. This instrument is capable of cutting-edge biopharma research and complex chemical deformulation. 

Zeno SWATH from Sciex

Modern MS technology is a combination of cutting-edge hardware and powerful software. Zeno SWATH data independent acquisition (DIA) is the latest software developed by Sciex. This software enables the identification and quantitation of up to twice as many proteins as previous versions. It can shorten run times to as little as five minutes and reduce sample size to as low as 10 nanograms. This software is designed to run on the ZenoTOF 7600 system and provides high depth of coverage for biomarker analysis. According to Joe Fox, president of Sciex, “Zeno Swath DIA allows large scale biomarker studies to be run as projects.”

These new mass spectrometry developments will push forward the boundaries of analytical science in a number of fields. Perhaps the most exciting area is the progression towards personalized medicine. Each of these companies touted their ability to shorten research timelines with improved data, increased sensitivity, and greater coverage. These tools help reinforce the idea that now is a great time to be exploring complex scientific challenges.