Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS)

Mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) is an analytical technique that ionizes chemical species and sorts the ions based on their mass to charge ratio.

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Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS)


Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that ionizes chemical species and sorts the ions based on their mass to charge ratio. In simpler terms, a mass spectrum measures the masses within a sample. Mass spectrometry is used in many different fields and is applied to pure samples as well as complex mixtures.


A mass spectrum is a plot of the ion signal as a function of the mass-to-charge ratio. These spectra are used to determine the elemental or isotopic signature of a sample, the masses of particles and of molecules, and to elucidate the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and other chemical compounds.


In a typical MS procedure, a sample, which may be solid, liquid, or gas, is ionized, for example by bombarding it with electrons. This may cause some of the sample’s molecules to break into charged fragments. These ions are then separated according to their mass-to-charge ratio, typically by accelerating them and subjecting them to an electric or magnetic field: ions of the same mass-to-charge ratio will undergo the same amount of deflection. The ions are detected by a mechanism capable of detecting charged particles, such as an electron multiplier. Results are displayed as spectra of the relative abundance of detected ions as a function of the mass-to-charge ratio. The atoms or molecules in the sample can be identified by correlating known masses to the identified masses or through a characteristic fragmentation pattern.


Ion Source


The ion source is the part of the mass spectrometer that ionizes the material under analysis (the analyte). The ions are then transported by magnetic or electric fields to the mass analyzer. Techniques for ionization have been key to determining what types of samples can be analyzed by mass spectrometry. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) is a soft ionization technique used in mass spectrometry, allowing the analysis of biomolecules (biopolymers such as DNA, proteins, peptides and sugars) and large organic molecules (such as polymers, dendrimers and other macromolecules), which tend to be fragile and fragment when ionized by more conventional ionization methods. It is similar in character to electrospray ionization (ESI) in that both techniques are relatively soft ways of obtaining ions of large molecules in the gas phase, though MALDI produces far fewer multiply charged ions.


Mass Analyzer


Mass analyzers separate the ions according to their mass-to-charge ratio. The time-of-flight (TOF) analyzer uses an electric field to accelerate the ions through the same potential, and then measures the time they take to reach the detector. If the particles all have the same charge, the kinetic energies will be identical, and their velocities will depend only on their masses. Ions with a lower mass will reach the detector first.


Time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF-MS) is a method of mass spectrometry in which an ion’s mass-to-charge ratio is determined via a time measurement. Ions are accelerated by an electric field of known strength. This acceleration results in an ion having the same kinetic energy as any other ion that has the same charge. The velocity of the ion depends on the mass-to-charge ratio (heavier ions of the same charge reach lower speeds, although ions with higher charge will also increase in velocity). The time that it subsequently takes for the ion to reach a detector at a known distance is measured. This time will depend on the velocity of the ion, and therefore is a measure of its mass-to-charge ratio. From this ratio and known experimental parameters, one can identify the ion.


MALDI-TOF-MS is a compound acronym, which simply refers to mass spectrometry with a specific configuration of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization source and time-of-flight mass analyzer.

More Information

Wikipedia: Mass Spectrometry ; Time-Of-Flight Mass Spectrometry ; Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization


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