Mass Spectrometry—The Quest for Ionization Improvements: Notable New MS Products at Pittcon 2014

Sitting here watching March Madness reminded me of the new instrumentation presented at Pittcon® in Chicago. Not one, but two, mass spectrometer products were awarded a Pittcon Editors’ Award, including the first truly integrated capillary electrophoresis/mass spectrometer (CE/MS) and a compact LC/MS designed to enable simplified operation in a low-cost instrument. With the conference’s move to Chicago this year, it seemed that the number of mass spectrometry talks and sessions increased, with special sessions in forensics and food analysis showing new uses for GC/MS and LC/MS. New technologies presented at the show are listed alphabetically by company for your reading pleasure.

AB SCIEX (Framingham, MA; Introduced the CESI 8000, a capillary electrophoresis system with a dedicated electrospray ionization interface connection to AB SCIEX LC/MS instruments. The interface does not use a sheath liquid like earlier approaches; instead, an electrospray solvent is added post-CE column to promote ionization of the molecules. The CESI 8000 system is the first CE-related product launch from AB SCIEX. The company obtained the CESI technology through combining the CE business of Beckman Coulter Life Sciences (Indianapolis, IN;

Advion (Ithaca, NY; Announced improved versions of its compact expression CMS mass spectrometer. The expressionL has a 2000-Dalton mass range; this is significantly higher than its original CMS, which has been upgraded to become expressionS. The interface of these CMS units to LC, flow reactors, supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC), preparative LC, and CAMAG’s TLC-MS Interface (Muttenz, Switzerland; are highlighted in the company literature.

Analyze IQ (Dublin, Ireland; Presented SmartSearch™, a program that allows you to search rapidly and accurately through a library of spectra to identify the best matches for unknown spectra, enabling you to answer “what is this?” questions easily and reliably. The program provides accurate spectrum matching algorithms to let you identify a ranked set of spectra that are the closest matches for a spectrum of interest using an innovative new Spectral Euclidean Distance algorithm that was developed for the product.

Bruker Daltonics (Billerica, MA; After introducing three new MS systems this year, the company launched a next-generation GC-APCI II interface for coupling a GC transfer line to any Bruker electrospray ionization (ESI) mass spectrometer. The use of this flexible interface line means that the GC can be easily mounted and dismounted within minutes without requiring careful alignment and positioning of the GC in close proximity to the ESI/MS. For its MALDI-TOF product line, the autoflex™ speed offers faster 2-kHz Smartbeam Laser sampling speed for use in reducing the time requirement for applications such as biomarker discovery, imaging, and drug and metabolite tissue distribution.

The company also introduced its Dash Reporting Software for processing GC/MS and LC/MS data. The program allows its users to “draw” report elements then sort, filter, resize, and format those drawings to generate flexible customized reports for lab clients.

BSSN Software (Darmstadt, Germany; Displayed its new Contract Research Manager software solution, which enables management of relationships with external partners, such as contract research organizations (CROs) and contract laboratories. The company utilizes AnIML tools and instrument file converters to permit more efficient exchange of data between organizations.

Diablo Analytical, Inc. (Antioch, CA; Exhibited MS Sensor 3.0 Process Analysis Software, which permits real-time display in graphical and tabular format. The software enables the use of an Agilent 5977 MSD for continuous process analysis.

Extrel (Pittsburgh, PA; Featured the IQ-2000, “a new way to inspire the next generation of scientist,” in the form of a simple quadrupole mass spectrometer mounted on wheels. The product includes an educational fully interactive e-textbook covering mass spectrometry. The lesson to be learned is that from seeing the quadrupole mass analyzer, its vacuum system, ionizer, and detector, students will be able to understand and love their mass spectrometer.

JEOL (Peabody, MA; Demonstrated Shrader Software Solutions automated reporting capability to improve the speed of analysis of its AccuTOF-DARTSVP. The company also demonstrated the QuickStrip module, a consumable holder allowing rapid ambient ionization of up to 12 samples on a single card.

Markes International (Cincinnati, OH; Implemented capability for low-energy electron ionization using its Select-eV ionization source integrated into its Bench-TOF, a reflector-based time-of-flight system. The Select-eV source provides the means to switch from 70 eV to 12 eV for softer ionization without loss in sensitivity and without using reagent gases.

Phytronix (Quebec, Canada; Featured the LazWell Dryer, designed to uniformly dry all microtiter plate wells, which are used for sample introduction to the laser diode thermal desorption (LDTD) ionization source. The LazWell accelerates the drying process, enabling higher throughput for the LDTD.

Syft Technologies (Christchurch, New Zealand; Introduced the Voice2000Ultra, which allows for instantaneous identification and quantitation of volatile organic carbons (VOCs) and inorganic gases using a fully integrated chemical ionization library.

Thermo Fisher Scientific (Waltham, MA; Displayed the Orbitrap Fusion LC/MS/MS, which enables scientists analyzing the most challenging low-abundance, high-complexity samples to identify more compounds faster, quantify more accurately, and elucidate structures more thoroughly. This super-high-resolution system (450,000 FWHM) is quite possibly the highest-performance instrument ever displayed at a scientific conference.

Waters Corp. (Milford, MA; Offered several new products—the ACQUITY® QDa detector, a “pushbutton” mass detector, and an ionization source system, the ionKey/ MS. The ACQUITY QDa is a small, easy-to-use, and affordable mass detector that was awarded the Pittcon Editors’ Silver Award for just those features. In addition to the external ionization source for LC/MS, the instrument has a dedicated internal ionizer for use in calibration, so the chromatographer no longer needs to change plumbing every day to complete that task. Literature indicates that the QDa can be operational in under 15 min after turn-on, with the calibration being automatic. Available with two different inlet and vacuum pump configurations, the normal configuration system has a small pump attached to its main body and no floor-mounted rough pump.

The ionKey/MS system’s iKey Microfluidic Separation Device contains the fluidic connections, electronics, ESI interface, and column heater; the 1.7-μm ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC)-grade particles are prepacked inside the device, permitting hundreds of UHPLC separations. The ionKey device inserts into about the size of a narrow cell phone and provides a column that can be dedicated to the individual scientist, bringing to the market a sort of personal-use ionizer.


At the end of several days roaming the show, this author is excited to see these new products as well as the countless enhanced products that companies continue to make for us to get more from our instruments. The field of mass spectrometry continues to enjoy a run of products that just might make it possible someday to have a personal unit around the house.

Dr. Brian Musselman is an expert in mass spectrometry and CEO of IonSense, 999 Broadway, Ste. 404, Saugus, MA 01906, U.S.A.; e-mail:;