U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

New Instrument Improves Accuracy and Resolving Power of Mass Spectrometry
Published: November 07, 2011
Posted: May 24, 2012

In biology, the location of molecules in a cell often dictates the function of the biological system. A new type of high-resolution mass spectrometer developed by users from the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) in The Netherlands, and scientists from the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE scientific user facility located in Richland, Washington, now allows the biological research community to identify and map the location of biomolecules in a sample with higher mass accuracy and mass resolving power than ever before. Because biological molecules with very different functions can have almost identical masses, this holistic analysis will open new doors in biological research and offer scientists unique insights into biological systems and how they work. Called C60 SIMS FTICR MS, the new tool couples C60 (also called buckminsterfullerene, or buckyball) secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), which has high spatial resolution chemical imaging capabilities and minimizes damage to biological samples during analysis, with high-magnetic field (9.4 or 12 Tesla) Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance (FTICR) mass spectrometry, which has impressive mass spectral performance. Featured on a recent cover of Analytical Chemistry, the team demonstrated the potential of C60 SIMS FTICR MS using mouse brain tissue. They achieved mass accuracy and mass resolving power 10 times higher than previously reported for SIMS. This achievement is an exciting development for the biological research community, and system optimizations are already underway, including efforts to achieve sub-micrometer resolution and build advanced data handling and analysis tools.

Reference: Smith, D. F., E. W. Robinson, A. V. Tolmachev, R. M. A. Heeren, and L. Pasa-Tolic. 2011. "C60 Secondary Ion Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry," Analytical Chemistry 83(24), 9552-56. DOI: 10.1021/ac2023348. (Reference link)

Contact: Paul E. Bayer, SC-23.1, (301) 903-5324
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: DOE Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
  • Research Area: Research Technologies and Methodologies

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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