Ambient mass spectrometry with a handheld mass spectrometer at high pressure

Anal Chem. 2007 Oct 15;79(20):7734-9. doi: 10.1021/ac071114x. Epub 2007 Sep 15.


The first coupling of atmospheric pressure ionization methods, electrospray ionization (ESI) and desorption electrospray ionization (DESI), to a miniature hand-held mass spectrometer is reported. The instrument employs a rectilinear ion trap (RIT) mass analyzer and is battery-operated, hand-portable, and rugged (total system: 10 kg, 0.014 m(3), 75 W power consumption). The mass spectrometer was fitted with an atmospheric inlet, consisting of a 10 cm x 127 microm inner diameter stainless steel capillary tube which was used to introduce gas into the vacuum chamber at 13 mL/min. The operating pressure was 15 mTorr. Ions, generated by the atmospheric pressure ion source, were directed by the inlet along the axis of the ion trap, entering through an aperture in the dc-biased end plate, which was also operated as an ion gate. ESI and DESI sources were used to generate ions; ESI-MS analysis of an aqueous mixture of drugs yielded detection limits in the low parts-per-billion range. Signal response was linear over more than 3 orders of magnitude. Tandem mass spectrometry experiments were used to identify components of this mixture. ESI was also applied to the analysis of peptides and in this case multiply charged species were observed for compounds of molecular weight up to 1200 Da. Cocaine samples deposited or already present on different surfaces, including currency, were rapidly analyzed in situ by DESI. A geometry-independent version of the DESI ion source was also coupled to the miniature mass spectrometer. These results demonstrate that atmospheric pressure ionization can be implemented on simple portable mass spectrometry systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alkylation
  • Calibration
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Molecular Weight
  • Pressure
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Temperature


  • Proteins