Department of Chemistry

Mass Spectrometry Applications

Mass Spectrometry can be used to identify many different types of compounds. It is used in the medical industry, forensic sciences, and analytical chemistry labs. The isotopes of the elements in compounds give us a powerful tool in the identification of compounds. When a sample of a compound is ionized, there will be a mix of different combinations of the isotopes of the atoms of that compound. The ions will reach the detector in accordance with their mass to charge ratio, and the corresponding m/z will be recorded. What results in the mass spectrum is a pattern that allows for us to identify the compound. This pattern is called the isotopic distribution.

When athletes are tested for drugs, their blood is analyzed, and a mass spectrometer can be used to identify the contents. Databases of information have been created that are compared to the mass spectrum that results when a sampled of blood is tested. Many different techniques need to be used in order to verify whether or not an athlete is taking illegal drugs. In the medical industry, pharmaceutical drugs, DNA, and other compounds can be analyzed and tested. In analytical chemistry labs, proteins are studied to determine the best way to ionize them, study their isotopic distributions, and identify them.

The following article should provide further insight into the industrial applications of mass spectrometry.