Four Applications of the Mass Spectrometer

The history of mass spectrometry dates back to 1968, when Wolfgang Paul developed the quadrupole mass analyser (1). Mass spectrometry is a technique for determining the mass-to-charge ratio (m/z) of one or more molecules in a sample. These measurements are frequently used to determine the exact molecular weight of sample components.

Here are the top four applications of the mass spectrometer.

Pharmaceutical Analysis

Scientists employ mass spectrometry to speed up drug development, analyse biomolecule composition, and assess crucial molecular functions including ligand binding, which can alter how a drug binds to and activates receptors (2).

Forensic Analysis

Mass spectrometry is also applied to fight crime and enforce justice. The method is frequently used to examine trace evidence, such as fibres embedded in clothing or gunshot residue on the floor or walls (2).This analytical procedure can also be used to detect residues of fire accelerants in arson investigations and identify explosive residues (2).

Environmental Analysis

Mass spectrometry is used in the analysis of drinking water (testing quality) to screening pesticides, assessing soil contamination, and monitoring carbon dioxide pollution (2). Mass spectrometry provides extremely exact and reliable results, making it perfect for detecting tiny levels of chemical compounds (2). HPLC is frequently used in conjunction with mass spectrometry to improve efficiency and reliability (2).


Metabolomics is the study of all small molecule metabolites in a biological system and is a  broad field that includes cancer diagnosis and screening, biomarker profiling, and metabolic fingerprinting analysis, among other things (2). Many thousands of metabolite characteristics can be detected and quantified simultaneously using mass spectrometry-based metabolomics methods (3). The chemical diversity and dynamic range of the metabolome, however, make component identification and measurement extremely difficult (3).


  1. The Analytical Scientist. Top 10 Milestones in MS. (Internet) Available from:
  2. LabMate. What are the clinical applications of mass spectrometry.(Internet) Available from:
  3. Nature. Mass spectrometry-based metabolomics: a guide for annotation, quantification and best reporting practices. (Internet) Available from:

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