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dispatches from Analytica 2014

Bruker bids to make mass spectrometry accessible

By Joe Whitworth+

17-Apr-2014
Last updated on 18-Apr-2014 at 17:44 GMT

Tony Drury spoke to FQN at Analytica 2014
Tony Drury spoke to FQN at Analytica 2014

Findings ways for novice users to use mass spectrometry to get real answers that help them in their daily workflow is vital, according to Bruker.  

The firm said it is still perceived as a technique that requires a PhD calibre analyst to run it.

Tony Drury, applied markets manager, mass spectrometry, said it has pushed forward to allow novice users to use mass spectrometry with their OpenAccess software.

“We still have a long way to go in this field, to break down the barriers of adoption by making the interface simpler but one of the ways we are doing this is providing whole workflows,” he told FoodQualityNews.com at Analytica 2014 in Munich.

“So instead of providing just a box we now provide a whole workflow, a database, a method, the column, we show people how to get to the right data and provide them with a graphical user interface for them to be able to execute the workflow.

“In order to make it a reality, the content behind the method provided must be rigorous, the manufacturer must have tested the method, made sure it works day after day, week after week.”   

There will be advancements in the physical technology itself but the major leaps will be in the user interface, data mining, data interpretation and reporting, he added.

Food safety analysis use

Drury said the instrumentation used regularly for food safety analysis includes its Q-TOF range of the quadrupole instruments.

“Traditionally, in food safety testing pesticides or other contaminants have been tested for in a quantitative fashion so a very rigorous analysis was done on every sample which would detect for set contaminants and also do quantitation as well,” he said.

“But this takes a lot of time, effort and is very expensive so the way things are changing now is that more and more exporters and importers are requiring fast screening.

“By screening what we mean is to be able to look for a wide range of chemical residues and to do that very quickly and to flag the ones that are potentially of harm or of interest for further study.

“If we are looking at hundreds of samples every day or every week we can identify the two or three that may be problematic and then do a detailed quantitative assay on them. This saves time, it saves money and it means that food that is waiting to be imported that is in the docks actually gets into the food chain quickly rather than degrading on ships.”  

The use of mass spectrometry

Mass spectrometry can be used to analyse any organic compound that can be either protonated or deprotonated.

The range of compounds that can be looked at ranges from mycotoxins, pesticide residues to personal care products.

For the very small non-polar molecules GC-MS is better, while for the larger more polar molecules LC-MS is better.

“But with choosing your ion source the LC-MS technologies actually push into the GC section quite deeply and we are now seeing if you combine GC-MS with LC-MS you cover the entire portfolio,” said Drury.   

A combination of technologies is being in food labs alongside LC-MS, he added.

“If we think about the history of food labs, they started off with GC, GC-FID, nitrogen phosphorus detectors and so on and so forth then they moved to GC-MS, more recently GC-MS/MS in some labs and over the last ten years they have moved into LC-MS as well.

“LC-MS typically started off with single quadruple systems but they lacked selectively and people have now realised the benefit of MS-MS, therefore GC triple quads, LC triple quads, LC –QTOFs that provide you that extra dimension of selectively and confidence are being adopted to ensure that you get the right level of food safety detection.” 

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