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Purchasing Guide: Mass Spectrometers

Mass spectrometers measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions and help identify unknown compounds via molecular weight determination for both pure samples and complex mixtures

by Lab Manager
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Mass spectrometers measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions and help identify unknown compounds via molecular weight determination for both pure samples and complex mixtures. The resultant mass spectra, plots of intensity as a function of mass-to-charge ratio, can be used to determine the mass and chemical structure of molecules within a sample. There are many different configurations of mass spectrometers available depending on the sample type being analyzed and the resolution and speed of analysis required. For a list of mass spectrometer manufacturers, see our online directory: LabManager.com/Mass-Spec-manufacturers

6 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Mass Spectrometer:

  1. What type of ionization source, mass analyzer, and ion detection system do you require for your application?
  2. Can the manufacturer customize the configuration to suit your needs?
  3. How sensitive is the mass spectrometer?
  4. How long does the mass spectrometer take to analyze a sample?
  5. What are your data analysis and interpretation requirements, and what software is available?
  6. What service agreements are available from the manufacturer?

Ultrasensitive Trace Metals Analysis

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is a popular choice for conducting ultrasensitive analyses of trace metals, but there are other techniques that may fit your application. For instance, graphite furnace atomic absorption can detect below parts per billion, and novel techniques using carbon nanotube microelectrodes can detect heavy metals at parts per trillion. Learn more at LabManager.com/ultrasensitive-MS-analysis

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In-House Calibrations

Should your staff calibrate your mass spec? Depending on your particular mass spec instrument and the expertise of your staff, it may be feasible to calibrate your mass spec in-house. However, more advanced mass spectrometry systems such as time-of-flight should be calibrated with vendor input, if not by a vendor field technician. If in doubt about what direction is best for you, consult with your mass spec vendor.