There is much interest in ambient ionisation systems for mass spectrometry, which enable straightforward sample introduction. Now a new approach has been developed at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory which can identify and characterise a solid or liquid sample by touching it onto a drop of solvent in the inlet.
The device and technique, created by Gary Van Berkel and Vilmos Kertesz of ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division, is described in a paper in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. The appeal of this open port sampling interface, researchers note, is its elegance, speed and ease of use.
“The simplicity of our device allows even novices with the means to introduce unprocessed solid or liquid samples into a mass spectrometer without fear of instrument contamination,” Van Berkel said.
To identify a compound, researchers simply touch the object of interest to the solvent dome at the sampling end of the probe, which is connected to a mass spectrometer. Almost instantaneously, a screen displays data that identifies the chemical and its approximate concentration. Because this approach requires no sample preparation and the device is self-cleaning, the system is especially attractive for a wide range of applications, Van Berkel said. He expects the first versions of the patent-pending device to be a cost-effective addition to existing mass spectrometry systems.