Are You in the Market for a Mass Spectrometer?

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

By Andrea Cole

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 30%
Determine structures of drugs and metabolites 26%
Screen for metabolites in biological systems 25%
Determine protein structure, function, folding, and interactions 20%
Quantitate (relative or absolute) proteins in a given sample 13%
Detect specific post-translational modifications throughout complex biological mixtures 13%
Perform forensic analyses 13%
Detect disease biomarkers 9%
Sequence oligonucleotides 1%
Other 40%

Sample types analyzed by survey respondents

Blood, body fluids, and cultures 30%
Pharmaceuticals 28%
Waste water 24%
Drinking water 24%
Human blood and body fluids 23%
Animal tissue 20%
Rocks and minerals 18%
Food and food related products 17%
Clinical samples 16%
Soils 15%
Oils 14%
Gases 12%
Metals 11%
Plants 10%
Petroleum and related products 10%
Polymers 9%
Air 6%
Controlled substances/narcotics 6%
Cosmetics 3%
Other 16%

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

  • 2-D mapping of metabolites in tissue
  • Developing proxies for paleotemperatures
  • Proteomic biomarker discovery
  • Drug development and discovery
  • PFCs in drinking water
  • Pesticide analysis
  • Metabolite identification

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

Categories: Surveys

Published In

Human Resources Magazine Issue Cover
Human Resources

Published: October 11, 2018

Cover Story

We have updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.
Please read our Cookie Policy to learn how we use cookies to provide you with a better experience.