Research Demonstrates Nanotube Coating Helps Shrink Mass Spectrometry System

Researchers at Purdue University and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras studying the use of carbon nanotubes to advance ambient ionization techniques have found that when paper used to collect a sample was coated with carbon nanotubes, an analysis technique called PaperSpray ionization, the voltage required was 1,000 times reduced, the signal was sharpened and the equipment was able to capture far more delicate molecules.

R. Graham Cooks, Purdue's Henry B. Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Thalappil Pradeep, a professor of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai led the research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation. The Nano Mission of the Government of India supported the research at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and graduate students Rahul Narayanan and Depanjan Sarkar performed the experiments. The study is detailed in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

"This is a big step in our efforts to create miniature, handheld mass spectrometers for the field," says Cooks. "The dramatic decrease in power required means a reduction in battery size and cost to perform the experiments. The entire system is becoming lighter and cheaper, which brings it that much closer to being viable for easy, widespread use."

"Mass spectrometry is a fantastic tool, but it is not yet on every physician's table or in the pocket of agricultural inspectors and security guards,” says Pradeep. “Great techniques have been developed, but we need to hone them into tools that are affordable, can be efficiently manufactured and easily used."

In addition to reducing the size of the battery required and energy cost to run the tests, the new technique also simplified the analysis by nearly eliminating background noise. The team plans to investigate the mechanisms behind the reduction in background noise and potential applications of the gentle method, but the most promising aspect of the new technique is its potential to miniaturize the mass spectrometry system, according to Cooks.

For more information, visit www.purdue.edu

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