Year 1897 marks the discovery of electrons by Sir JJ Thomson. This Nobel Prize went on to design the first mass spectrometer in 1910, called parabolic spectrograph.
What is it?
Mass spectrometry is an analysis technique allowing the detcetion and identification of molecules by measuring their mass. Very powerful and sensitive, it allows qualitative and quantitative analysis of solid, liquid or gaz compounds. Furthermore, the possibility to join this technique with separative methods (such as liquid phase chromatography) makes spectrometry even more effective.Its application fields are : metabolomics, proteomics and even studies in environmental pollution!
How does it work?
Its principle resides in the gaz phase separation of charged molecules (ions). The ionised molecule gets in an excited state which will lead to its fragmentation. Each of the formed ion is characterized by its mass/charge (m/z) relation, the device is then able to separate these ions and characterize them.
A spectrometer is composed of 3 parts:
An ionization source producing gaz phase ions from solid, liquid or gaz state molecules.
A dispersive system capable of breaking up ions and separating them acording to their mass and charge.
Detector counting ions and amplifying their signals.
Since parabolic spectrograph, mass spectrometry has evolved a lot, different ionization sources (electrospay, MALDI...) or dispersive system (TOF...) have been developed.
For what means?
For identification using the obtained mass spetrum which could be specific for a molecule and recognized thanks to spectrum banks. It is also possible to determine the molecular formula with the monoisotopic mass acquired with the dispersive device.
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