Mass spectrometry supplies researchers and applied scientists with an expanding collection of ways to identify and analyze the components of complex samples. The expansion of applications explains the ongoing increase in the mass spectrometry market. For example, a report from TechNavio in London predicted that the global market for mass spectrometry (MS) would increase at a compound annual growth rate of 7.83 percent for 2011–2015. To keep this growth going, vendors unveiled an explosion of new products at the annual meeting of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS), held on June 9–13 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This article explores a few of the most interesting tools unveiled at the ASMS meeting.

When scientists think of new tools for MS, many think of platforms, but there is more to making MS work. That’s why Promega developed its new Trypsin/Lys-C Mix. This protease product consists of a mixture of MS-grade Trypsin Gold and MS-grade rLys-C, and it provides better digestion of in-solution proteins or proteolytically resistant proteins. For in-solution protein digestion, this mix delivers increased proteolytic efficiency under standard conditions for digestion; digesting proteolytically resistant proteins requires a two-step procedure, and the first step requires strong protein-denaturing conditions. According to Gary Kobs, strategic marketing manager at Promega, the Trypsin/Lys-C Mix “eliminates the majority of missed cleavages and increases the number of identified peptides and proteins” and can be used to “generate mass spectrometry data from poor-quality sample material.” Kobs adds that this mix “enables the digestion of trypsin-resistant proteins.” All of these benefits combine to create improved MS results, even with protein samples that have proven troublesome in the past.


Thermo Fisher Scientific’s new Orbitrap Fusion Tribrid MS combines three mass detectors. (Source: Thermo Fisher Scientific)Orbitrap Evolution and More

In 2005, Thermo Fisher Scientific released its first Orbitrap MS. At this year’s ASMS, it unveiled the new Thermo Scientific Orbitrap Fusion Tribrid, which includes three mass analyzers: a quadrupole detector, an Orbitrap and a linear-ion trap. Stu Matlow, Thermo Fisher Scientific spokesperson, says, “There’s never been a mass spectrometer like this, and it’s benchtop.” This platform gathers a high number of ions through a large inlet, and then uses an ion funnel to remove unwanted gases and solvents. Consequently, this MS platform provides a resolution of 450,000. This system also uses Dynamic Scan Management to determine testing parameters on samples of unknown concentration, even when protecting precious, small sample volumes.

The Orbitrap Fusion Tribrid MS uses an advanced ion path to “feed” its three mass detectors. (Source: Thermo Fisher Scientific)Thermo Scientific also released two new triple quadrupole MS systems: the Thermo Scientific TSQ Quantiva and the TSQ Endura. Both systems use a new ion path that gets more of the sample to the detector and stays clean three times longer than previous technologies. “The Quantiva is the most sensitive quadrupole available,” says Matlow, “and it can detect verapamil—an industry standard—at 70 atamoles, which is only around 90,000 molecules.” He adds, “The TSQ Endura is not that sensitive, but it is more sensitive than previous high-end instruments.

To make these new MS platforms easier to use, Thermo Fisher Scientific developed controlling software that provides a consistent user environment with all three instruments. “This suite of updated software makes the power of the instruments more accessible,” Matlow says. “It lets you build methods just by dragging and dropping.”

Other companies also released new MS software at ASMS. For instance, Agilent rolled out additions to its MassHunter software that simplify the development of methods for using MS in food safety and forensics.


PerkinElmer’s new AxION iQT GC/MS/MS provides speeds like a time-of-flight MS and detection limits of a triple-quad platform. (Source: PerkinElmer)Combined Capabilities

One new MS platform unveiled at ASMS, the AxION iQT GC/MS/MS from PerkinElmer, combines the capabilities of two forms of instrument. The AxION iQT delivers the quantitative performance of a triple quadrupole MS and a quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-TOF) MS’s identification capabilities. Hayley Crowe, global mass spectrometry commercialization leader at PerkinElmer, adds, “This platform gives a researcher speeds as fast as a time-of-flight instrument but the detection limits are the same as you get with a triple-quad platform.”

Despite this range of technical capabilities, PerkinElmer made the AxION iQT work through an intuitive interface. “This is a compound-centric instrument,” says Crowe. “You enter the name and formula of what you are interested in, and this system picks the best peak for quantification and uses that in the method.” She adds, “It even has an autopilot that optimizes the parameters without the user even needing to know what’s going on.” The software also resembles well-known modern technologies, such as the iPhone. “There will be different apps for different processing,” Crowe explains, “ and that streamlines the work in the lab so that it fits the needed workflow.”

As these new products reveal, improved resolution and speed in MS pushes this technology to new capabilities. At the same time, today’s MS market demands improved ease of use. So it takes a combination of features to stay on top.