Tools for Exploration

The Institute's Mass Spectrometry for Synthetic Materials Laboratory (MSSML) houses one of the most extensively-equipped mass spectrometry laboratories in academia. The MSSML operates nine mass spectrometers, including five high resolution instruments which utilize several different ionization methods. These methods afford a wide range of characterization techniques and include Electrospray (ESI), Nanospray, Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization (MALDI), GCMS (pos & neg EI & CI), electron impact (EI) and Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization (APCI). Mass analyzers include several time of flight, quadrupole, Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance and tandem combination spectrometers.
The MSSML’s mission is to provide rapid, accurate, and precise mass spectrometry services to researchers within I²NM². Every sample submitted to our laboratory is treated as a “rush” or priority analysis. Since 2008, the MSSCL has analyzed over 15,000 research samples and strives for a “same-day service” for all sample submissions.

The MSSML currently operates the following instruments:

  1. 7-Tesla Bruker APEX-Ultra FTICR

  2. Waters Q-TOF API-US

  3. Perseptive Biosystems Mariner API-TOF (two)


  5. 2000 ESI Triple Quadrupole

  6. Seiko TGA-MS

  7. Thermo DSQ-ii GCMS

  8. Several Agilent 1100 HPLC systems

MALDI-TOF: Applied Biosystems Voyager DE-STR


The Applied Biosystems Voyager DE-STR Biospectrometry workstation is a high-performance Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometer capable of high-resolution, acurate mass measurements of ions having a mass to charge (m/z) ratio of between 500 to 300,000 Da. The instrument operates in either the linear or reflectron modes, enabling both high-sensitivity and high-resolution mass measurements. In the reflectron mode, resolutions of greater than 20,000 FWHH and mass accuracy better than 0.005% are obtainable.
The Voyager is capable of detecting both positive and negative ions and is equipped with a collision gas cell and a timed-ion-selector for performing MS/MS experiments employing the collision-induced dissociation/post-source-decay method.

Q-TOF: Waters Micromass Q-TOF API-US

waters q-tof

The Q-TOF instruments are hybrid mass spectrometers which combine a single quadrupole with an orthogonal time of flight mass analyzer. This technology combines the advantage of rapid sampling of analyte ionized at atmosspheric pressure with the high mass accuracy of TOF analysis. 
The Q-TOF API-US utilizes electrostatic mirrors, or reflectrons, which effectively doubles the ion flight path in V-mode and quadruples the path in W-mode, as depicted above. The instrument is capable of accurate mass measurements of better than 5 ppm (typically better than 2 ppm) and resolutions approaching 20,000 FWHH in W-mode.

This combination allows for:

  1. Measurements with both high resolution and high mass accuracy compared to conventional techniques. This is of utmost importance for the confirmation of elemental composition of a new synthetic molecule.

  2. The simultaneous measurement of the entire mass range, in what is called multiplexing or parallel detection.

  3. Acquisition of information in real-time during LC analyses.

  4. The capability of detecting non-covalent interactions, such as hydrogen bonds due to the minimal energy introduced during ionization.

  5. The capability of performing MS/MS experiments where accurate mass measurements are obtained for both precursor and product ions generated from in-source fragmentation.

Q-TOF:Applied Biosystems Mariner Biospectrometry Workstation


The institute’s two Mariner biospectrometry workstations are API-TOF mass spectrometers capable of high-resolution (better than 5000 FWHH), high-accuracy mass measurements. They are each equipped with ESI, APCI, and TurboIonspray sources. Samples may be introduced through automated Agilent 1100 HPLC systems, or through the integrated computer-controlled syringe pump.

Once introduced into the system, ions are drawn by electrical fields into an interface chamber and travel though a single, non mass selecting quadruple and then into an orthogonal time of flight mass analyzer. Here, ions are imparted with a force proportional to their charge and their corresponding velocity is proportional to the ion’s mass. The time of flight analyzer then measures the time required for an ion to travel the length of the flight tube and this time is proportional to the square root of the m/z value. Resolution in the Mariner is increased by utilizing a single electrostatic mirror, which increases the flight path to 1.3 meters.

The mass range of the Mariners are from 50, to 25,000 m/z. Ions having a molecular weight higher than 25,000 Da can be measured if they are capable of carrying multiply charges. The Mariners are capable of mass accuracies better than 5 ppm. The Mariner ESI-TOF is sensitive enough to measure 10 femtomoles (that’s only 1x10-14 moles!!) of neurotensin with a signal to noise ratio of 10:1.