Modern mass spectrometry (MS) has its inception in the cathode-ray-tube experiments of J.J. Thomson (Manchester, England) working as head of the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge
Aston working with Mass Spectrometers in the Cavendish Lab Cambridge UK, under the pupilage of Thomson built the first mass spectrograph and reported the discovery of atomic isotopes using mass spectrometry
Francis Aston wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of isotopes with mass spectrometry
N.F. Barber working in Leeds showed that the double focusing of an ion beam could be obtained in a sector instrument if the source, apex of the magnet and collector lie in a straight line and the ion beam enters and leaves the magnetic sector at right angles
1934 – 1936
Designs of double focusing instruments built by Herztzog and Mattuch (Vienna) Demster (Chicago) Bainbridge and Jordan (Harvard) provide resolution of 6000
Development of the magnetic sector analyser Alfred Nier and improvements in electron impact ionisation
Decision of American Oil industry to use mass spectrometry to analyse light hydrocarbon mixtures used as aviation fuel
First commercial mass spectrometers produced by Consolidated Electrodynamics Corporation USA, MAT in Bremen (Germany) and Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester commissioned by Professor James Chadwick, Liverpool University 1944 (Nobel prize in physics 1932 for discovery of the neutron) on behalf of the UK government
Time-of-flight mass spectrometer, named the Velocitron, reported by A. E. Cameron and D. F. Eggers Jr, working at the Y-12 National Security Complex, in 1948 following proposal of W. E. Stephens of the University of Pennsylvania
Hans Georg Dehmelt and Wolfgang Paul’s invention of the quadrupole ion filter which in turn led to the quadrupole ion trap earned them the Nobel Prize in physics (1989)
Wiley, W. C.; McLaren, I. H. report a Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer with Improved Resolution
Earl W. McDaniel couples a drift tube to a mass spectrometer to study low energy ion molecule reactions, this is recognised as the start of the technique known as ion mobility mass spectrometry.
Malcolm Dole developed contemporary electrospray ionization (ESI) but with little fanfare. Creating an aerosol in a vacuum resulted in a vapor that was considered too difficult to be practical. Liquid can represent a volume increase of 100 to 1000 times its condensed phase (1 mL/min of water at standard conditions would develop 1 L/min of vapor)
Atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) was developed by Horning based largely on gas chromatography (GC), but APCI was not widely adopted
M. Barber, R.S. Bordoli working at UMIST demonstrated the ionisation of the protein insulin with a technique that they developed called Fast Atom Bombardment
Alexander Makarov designed a functional orbitrap in 2000 and in 2005 it was launched as a product by Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Vestal and Blakely’s work with heating a liquid stream became known as thermospray, it became a harbinger of today’s commercially applicable instruments
Franz Hillenkamp and Michael Karas invent Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation MALDI allowing entire peptides to be ionised intact.
Harry Kroto, Robert Curl, and Rick Smalley use laser vaporisation coupled with mass spectrometry to discover the football shaped molecule Buckminster Fullerene. In 1995 they were awarded the Nobel Prize for this discovery.
Koichi Tanaka develops and applies Laser Desorption Ionisation to ionise molecules as large as the 34,472 Da protein Carboxypeptidase-A. Tanaka shared the 2002 Nobel Prize with John Fenn ‘for developments in soft ionisation’
Based on theoretical work of Kingdon in the early 1920s postulating a ion trap that can trap ions in orbit around a spindle, and the inclusion of a modified outer electrode by Knight.
Graham Cooks and Zoltan Takats develop the ambient ionisation technique DESI – Desorption Electrospray Ionisation
Who Uses MS?
Mass Spectrometry is an analytical tool that measures the mass of molecular ions with a phenomenal reach across science, industry and associated impacts throughout society. As well as its continued use in the chemical industry, it is also employed to test athletes (and horses) for the use of banned substances; to check for adulteration of foodstuffs (e.g. honey with corn syrup); to determine if tissue is cancerous and in real time feeding this information back to a surgeon in the operating theatre; to give an indication of frailty as we age; to measure disease markers; to analyse complex mixtures from food, oil and the environment, and is currently as we write being used to measure the molecular composition of a comet.