Scientists in Europe with experience
in cation mass spectrometry have, with EU support, developed a new analytical
instrument capable of providing three-dimensional surface analysis at
exceptionally high resolution. The instrument, which is the first in the
world to be fully dedicated to exploiting the analytical qualities of
caesium cations, will be used in research and production control in the
biotechnology and nanotechnology industries, where coating materials are
of increasing importance.
As computers become smaller and smaller and as we
look ever closer at the inner workings of the living cell, material analysis
at the sub-micrometer level is becoming increasingly important. Mass spectrometry
has long been used by chemists as an analytical technique, with Europe
positioned as a world leader in the field. But the expense involved makes
it impractical for use in many areas. The EU is, therefore interested
in developing techniques that would make mass spectrometry processes more
affordable and, therefore, more attractive to potential users. The Cation
mass spectrometry (CMS) project includes partners from France and
Germany and is being led by Henri-Noel Migeon out of the Laboratory
for Analysis of Materials (LAM) in Luxembourg.
The instrument now under development will allow the
application of this technique to much greater effect in the analysis of
chemical compounds at very low concentrations. It will be particularly
useful in many industries in Europe, including the automotive and construction
industries, in protein analysis and genomics; and in nanotechnology, an
exciting area expected to revolutionise the computing industry.
||A simple but powerful
is a widely used method for identifying and characterising substances.
The identity of a given molecule is determined by breaking it up
and then identifying the component parts. Molecules always break
apart in characteristic ways depending on how the atoms that make
it up are grouped.
Once molecules have been fragmented, they are
drawn toward a detector using a magnetic field. The particular technique
being developed under the CMS project is based on the use of caesium
ions. The sample to be tested is bombarded with these ions, resulting
in the formation of a number of caesium compounds made up of the
caesium ions and fragments of the bombarded sample. By measuring
the masses of the caesium clusters, the composition of the sample
surface can be analysed. Indeed, project partners have designed
the first and only instrument totally dedicated to this method of
measuring surface content.
coatings are becoming more and more prevalent in many products from
medical prostheses and implants to large metal or plastic components
used in motor vehicles. They can be used to change the appearance
of the product in some way or to affect the properties of the product.
Obviously the performance of the coated-product will be determined
by the quality of the coating, which is in turn determined by its
components. Ensuring quality during the production of the coating
is where the CMS instrument comes in.
Wear and tear also affects coating materials.
Components of the coating can move between layers, possibly even
migrating into the bulk of the material. This can affect performance.
Determination of these changes requires an instrument that not only
examines surface concentration but is also capable of determining
the concentration of any element at depth. The CMS instrument has
been designed specifically to meet these requirements by allowing
three-dimensional analysis at very low concentrations.
The CMS instrument will also find application
in biotechnology and medicine, where much of the current research
centres on the understanding of the tiniest parts of the body. We
have already sequenced the genome and now we are in the process
of trying to understand the proteins that are produced and controlled
by these genes. An understanding of these proteins is expected to
lead to development of new and exciting drugs for the treatment
of human disease. CMS represents an important method by which these
proteins can be observed.
The production and
marketing of tools for use in fields such as nanotechnology, biotechnology
and medicine are very important and potentially quite lucrative.
Europe is already a market leader in cation spectrometry and the
development of the new CMS technique can only enhance this position.
Support for this important research is therefore essential as it
will enable European partners to perfect the instrument for manufacture
and sale to countries all over the world.
Research under the Measurements
and testing generic activity of the Growth Programme supports
the development of new techniques such as caesium cation mass
spectrometry for the high resolution three-dimensional analysis
of microscopic surfaces.
Cation Mass Spectrometry, Contract number