This technology transfer success from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) involves an exciting innovation that dramatically simplifi es mass spectrometry, enabling its wider use.
Mass spectrometry is used in chemical analysis, mainly by trained researchers in sophisticated laboratory settings. With high-selectivity and highsensitivity capabilities, mass spectrometry is used to diff erentiate millions of chemicals in quantities as low as 1 part per billion.
ORNL’s innovation enables mass spectrometry to be performed by novice users in settings outside high-tech labs. This has signifi cant implications for a range of applications where the use of mass spectrometry would be benefi cial, but until now was not feasible. These application areas include onsite security and forensics investigations, process control, food and water safety, disease diagnosis in hospitals and clinics, and more.
The technical challenge that ORNL researchers targeted was the complex process of transporting the sample into the mass spectrometer—a bottleneck that had been blocking expansion of mass spectrometry to more general use and wider application. ORNL researchers developed an open port sampling interface (OPSI).
These application areas include onsite security and forensics investigations, process control, food and water safety, disease diagnosis in hospitals and clinics, and more.
When the user simply touches the sample to the end of the OPSI probe, which is connected to a mass spectrometer, a screen almost instantaneously displays the chemical’s identity and approximate concentration. The straightforward, inexpensive OPSI technology is easy to integrate into existing mass spectrometers.
Recognizing the signifi cant commercial potential of this technology, ORNL’s longtime collaborative partner, SCIEX, licensed it in January 2016.
The company is now transforming ORNL’s fundamental research into a product that will eventually eliminate the need for liquid chromatography sample preparation. In addition, SCIEX is establishing a comprehensive product development program, leveraging the many relevant business units within its parent company, Danaher Corporation.
This technology transfer eff ort illustrates how a forward-thinking lab and an agile yet powerful company leveraged their longterm commitment to R&D collaboration focused on achieving the goals of both the Department of Energy and the mass spectrometry industry. The result was a technology that met a crucial market need and is now on the path to new products that facilitate the ease and accessibility of mass spectrometry with user-friendly, rapid sampling systems.