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New mass spec technique requires no sample preparation

By Scott Jenkins |

A research group at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, N.J.; www.stevens.edu) has developed a new mass spectroscopy technique, called helium-plasma-ionization mass spectrometry (HePI-MS), that enables direct sampling of materials without the need for rigorous sample preparation, as is required for conventional mass-spectroscopy approaches. “We can put any object into the outer chamber of the spectrometer and measure volatile species emanating from it” says Athula Attygalle, the leader of the Stevens team that invented the technique. Stevens has signed a license with an analytical instrument company to further develop and commercialize the technology. To make the technique work, the Stevens team adapted a conventional electrospray ionization source to a helium plasma system in a way that creates a minute and stable plasma region to minimize consumption of helium. The HePI system generates both negatively and positively charged ions when exposed to vapors originating from organic or inorganic compounds. Among the possible applications for the technique is the detection of explosives, especially less volatile inorganic compounds used in fertilizer-based explosive devices. Also, Attygalle says the technique could be…
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