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Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART®) Mass Spectrometry


Mass Spectrometry (MS) is one of the fastest-growing areas in analytical instrumentation. The use of mass spectrometry in support of synthetic, organic, and pharmaceutical chemistry is well established. Mass spectrometry is also used in materials science, environmental research, and forensic chemistry. It has also evolved into one of the core methods used in biotechnology. However, currently available ion sources place extreme restrictions on the speed and convenience of sample analysis by mass spectrometry. Here we report a method for using mass spectrometry to instantaneously analyze gases, liquids, and solids in open air at ground potential under ambient conditions. Traditional ion sources used in mass spectrometry require the introduction of samples into a high vacuum system.

Traditional ion sources operated in vacuum include electron ionization (EI)[1], chemical ionization (CI)[2],fast atom bombardment (FAB)[3], and field desorption/field ionization (FD/FI)[4]. These techniques have been used successfully for decades. However, the requirement that samples be introduced into a high vacuum for analysis is a severe limitation. Gas or liquid samples must be introduced through a gas chromatograph or a specially designed inlet system. Solid samples must be introduced by using a direct insertion probe and a vacuum lock system. Direct insertion probes can result in vacuum failure and/or contamination of the ion source if too much sample is introduced.

Atmospheric pressure ion sources such as atmospheric pressure chemical ionization(APCI)[5], electrospray ionization (ESI)[6-8],matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization(MALDI)[9-10] and atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI)[11] have broadened the range of compounds that can be analyzed by mass spectrometry. However, these ion sources require that samples be exposed to elevated temperatures and electrical potentials,ultraviolet irradiation, laser radiation, or a high-velocity gas stream. Safety considerations require that the ion source be fully enclosed to protect the operator from harm.

The new ion source reported herein overcomes these limitations. The new technique, referred to as Direct Analysis in Real Time(DART™), has been coupled to the AccuTOF-LC™ atmospheric pressure ionization mass spectrometer to permit high-resolution, exact mass measurements of gases, liquids, and solids[12,13]. DART successfully sampled hundreds of chemicals, including chemical agents and their signatures, pharmaceutics,metabolites, pesticides and environmentally significant compounds, peptides and oligosaccharides, synthetic organics, organometallics, drugs of abuse, explosives, and toxic industrial chemicals. These chemicals were detected on a variety of surfaces such as concrete, human skin, currency, airline boarding passes, fruits and vegetables, body fluids, cocktail glasses,and clothing. The composition of drug capsules and tablets was directly analyzed.

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