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April 24, 2020
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ARC SCIENTIFIC What is Mass Spectrometry?

Mass Spectrometry is a global scientific method used in testing several key areas important to modern society. Perhaps most notably, it is used to: Detect Coronavirus; Determine presence of harmful Pesticides; Sequence DNA birth defects; and show Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

How It Works

Essentially, Mass Spectrometry breaks things down. It turns a single atom into multiple ions. The ions shoot through an electrical field then a magnetic field. This process causes separation of the ions and allows them to be measured individually. The measurements are relayed to a computer monitor on a long graph. The information obtained from the graph is then used to determine various diagnosis in different fields. 

real life applications

In coronavirus testing, Mass Spectrometry is used to not only detect a positive case of coronavirus but also to gain clues on it’s mutation potential. By monitoring sequences of mutations, scientists and health professionals are better able to gain information on this constantly evolving pandemic. For more information on Coronavirus testing, click here.

In agriculture and food science, Mass Spectrometry is used to determine the presence of controversial polar pesticides, such as glyphosate. This pesticide is widely used in the United States. Research testing into glyphosate has shown links to endocrine disruption, cancer, and birth defects. To learn more, visit here

In fetal testing, it is possible to use Mass Spectrometry in a low risk non-invasive measure to inform doctors and parents certain pre-natal risks to baby and mother. To learn more about prenatal genomics, click here.

Mass Spectrometry is one tool responsible for the comparative Greenhouse Gas studies that are vital to understanding Emission Trends. Click here to learn more about EPA testing for Greenhouse Gas Measurement and information on the emissions from different countries.

TYPES OF MASS SPECTROMETERS

LIQUID CHROMATOGRAPHY (LC-MS)  What it’s used for: Drug development, drug metabolism, toxicology studies of plasma, urine, and human tissue.  Who uses it: Hospitals and Clinical Labs

GAS CHROMATOGRAPHY (GC-MS)  What it’s used for: Hormone testing, detection of organic contamination, and chemical warfare detection.  Who uses it: Portable GC-MS units are used by military personnel and by municipal agencies, often in environmental testing.

INDUCTIVELY COUPLED PLASMA (ICP-MS)  What it’s used for: Detection of metals and non-metals at trace levels.   Who uses it: Chemistry labs for Electroplating Processes and Water Treatment Facilities.

CHROMATOGRAPHY (IC-MS)  What it’s used for: A more reliable and faster method for testing multi-element samples such as pesticides and controversial polar pesticides.  Who uses it: Agricultural and Environmental agencies such as the EPA, USDA, and FDA.

RATIO (IR-MS)  What it’s used for: Measuring naturally occurring isotopes. IRMS methods are being developed to detect the difference between natural and synthetic essential oils.  Who uses it: Forensics, Environmental and Earth Sciences.

Final Thoughts

Amidst what was already mentioned, Mass Spectrometry is used behind the scenes in more aspects of our day-to-day then we may realize. Ever been drug tested? Hear on the news about a famous athlete caught doping? Those tests were likely conducted on a Mass Spectrometer. Scientific instruments impact our lives more than we think.