The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc.

Sumner Group: Mass Spectrometry Basics

Ionization Technique · Isotope Table

Mass spectrometry (MS) is the science of "weighing" individual atoms and molecules. This is accomplished using instrumentation that generates gas-phase ions from the analyte that are then subjected to eletrostatic and magnetic fields. The gas-phase ions are mass measured or discriminated based upon their interaction and trajectories within these fields. "Molecular weight" information obtained from these experiments is very specific and highly useful in chemical identification and characterization. MS instrumentation has been utilized starting in the 1960s to mass measure small molecules. During the past decade, advances in the ability of mass spectrometers to "weigh" increasingly larger molecules more precisely have been made which now allow us to mass measure larger molecules such as peptides, proteins, and other high mass biomolecules very accurately. The Plant Biology Division has recognized the utility of the rapidly advancing MS technology and incorporated it into its new M. truncatula genomic initiative.

Useful Links:
ASMS tutorial: What is Mass Spectrometry?