An Orbitrap-based laser desorption/ablation mass spectrometer designed for spaceflight
RATIONALE: The investigation of cryogenic planetary environments as potential harbors for extant life and/or contemporary sites of organic synthesis represents an emerging focal point in planetary exploration. Next generation instruments need to be capable of unambiguously determining elemental and/or molecular stoichiometry via highly accurate mass measurements and the separation of isobaric interferences.
METHODS: An OrbitrapTM analyzer adapted for spaceflight (referred to as the CosmOrbitrap), coupled with a commercial pulsed UV laser source (266 nm), is shown to successfully characterize a variety of planetary analog samples via ultrahigh resolution laser desorption/ablation mass spectrometry. The materials analyzed in this study include: jarosite (a hydrous sulfate detected on Mars); magnesium sulfate (a potential component of the subsurface ocean on Europa); uracil (a nucleobase of RNA); and a variety of amino acids.
RESULTS: The instrument configuration tested here enables: measurement of major elements and organic molecules with ultrahigh mass resolution (m/Δm ≥ 120,000, FWHM); quantification of isotopic abundances with <1.0% (2σ) precision; and, identification of highly accurate masses within 3.2 ppm of absolute values. The analysis of a residue of a dilute solution of amino acids demonstrates the capacity to detect twelve amino acids in positive ion mode at concentrations as low as ≤1 pmol/mm2 while maintaining mass resolution and accuracy requirements.
CONCLUSIONS: The CosmOrbitrap mass analyzer is highly sensitive and delivers mass resolution/accuracy unmatched by any instrument sent into orbit or launched into deep space. This prototype instrument, which maps to a spaceflight implementation, represents a mission-enabling technology capable of advancing planetary exploration for decades to come.
Major and trace element analysis of natural and experimental igneous systems using LA-ICP-MS
Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS) enables spatially resolved quantitative measurements of major, minor and trace element abundances in igneous rocks and minerals with equal or better precision than many other in situ techniques, and more rapidly than labour-intensive wet chemistry procedures. Common applications for LA–ICP–MS in the Earth sciences centre on investigating the composition of natural and experimental geological materials, including: analysis of whole rock silicate glasses, flux-free pressed powder tablets and/or fused aliquots of materials; in situ probing of individual minerals, xenocrysts, fluid and melt inclusions, experimental run products, and siderophile-rich micronuggets; and multidimensional chemical mapping of complex (multiphase) materials.
Laser Ablation ICP-MS and Laser Fluorination GS-MS
Laser ablation ICP-MS and laser fluorination GS-MS provide two in situ methods of chemical analysis with applications to geo- and cosmochemistry, medicine, environmental sciences, industry, and a wide spectrum of other disciplines. Both methods provide the spatial resolution lacking from traditional solution and/or bulk sample chemical analysis techniques. In particular, LA-ICP-MS offers the versatility, resolution, and sensitivity to determine routinely ultratrace element abundances and high-precision isotopic compositions in any solid-sample material. Laser fluorination techniques, on the other hand, have been specifically modified to maximize precision, sensitivity, and spatial resolution for the high-precision, high-accuracy measurement of O and S isotopic compositions in silicates, oxides, sulfides, bulk rock samples, and a variety of other materials.