Business Office Feature

LIFE SCIENCE TECHNOLOGIES: Miniaturizing Mass Spectrometry

Science  21 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6173, pp. 928-930
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6173.928

Summary

Time was when mass spectrometry was the province of white-coated chemistry Ph.D.s with a secret language all their own. Terms like ion trap and post-source decay, mass-to-charge, and MALDI made the field inaccessible to others. Today, the technique has pushed beyond those narrow confines and entered the biology lab, where it underlies proteomics and biomarker research. But you can also find mass specs in airports and warehouses, and even at the bottom of the ocean. In many cases those instruments are being run not by specially trained researchers, but by TSA agents, soldiers, and first responders. Chalk that up to miniaturization. Researchers have finally figured out how to compress benchtop systems into portable, sometimes handheld gadgets. In so doing, they have created devices that empower not only themselves, but the wider world.