Ready to challenge the status quo? Below are five reasons why you should move to Orbitrap workflows in your laboratory.
1. Moving to non-targeted data acquisition broadens the scope
Using full scan analysis is inherently broad. In loose terms, this means that everything eluting from the analytical column will be detected (save, the usual constraints). We are practically unlimited in scope. We can analyze as many pesticides or other compounds with small consideration (or few decisions) regarding the set-up of the measurement (see #2). This gives us opportunities to consolidate analytes into large multi-component methods (with broad scope sample preparation procedures). We can even include other compounds that we might have otherwise considered for another method. We can decide to quantify in detail a sub-set of compounds, and screen for presence of hundreds of others in a targeted way. We can also qualitatively screen for thousands of other compounds in a non-targeted manner using a combination of peak picking, spectral deconvolution and very broad-scope spectral library. The scope of the analysis is fully adjustable post acquisition.
2. Non-targeted analysis (full scan) is easier
I can certainly testify to that for Orbitrap GC-MS from my rare laboratory cameos.
Here is the procedure we use when running a batch: Tune and mass calibrate (<1 min) type the sequence and hit “go.” No need to worry about if your SRM windows are in the correct place. Speaking of windows: ever had a heavy matrix sample push a compound out of one? Yeah, me too! Thankfully, it doesn’t happen with full scan. Also, adding new compounds is really easy, too – no need to hunt for the best transitions, etc. Kiss goodbye to having to develop and manage complex MS methods.
This level of ease of use is profoundly liberating, and at the same time profoundly difficult point to get across well. You have to experience it yourself to appreciate it fully; especially effective when there is a batch of samples between you and your weekend!
3. High selectivity and high mass accuracy drives productivity and confidence
Orbitrap technology provides another level of selectivity once we are at the dizzy heights of 60,000 resolution (@ m/z 200) and the mass accuracy remains fantastic (ask anybody with an Orbitrap system). This can allow the opportunity to take advantage of efficiencies in your sample prep, all the way through to your data processing. More generic (broad scope) sample preparation procedures can be explored to drive maximum efficiency, through method consolidation and reduction of procedural steps. On the data processing end: cleanly extracted, automatically integrated peaks are delivered, with little user intervention required to get to the final result. And crucially, that final result is one you are really confident in.
4. Full scan acquisition retains information
We throw away a lot of data with targeted methods, with full scan we are retaining that data for use now or in the future. This allows opportunity to track useful information: does this set of apples look like the last set we run? Is the profile the same? If not, why? Has there been a mistake in sample prep? Is there another suspicious peak in there? What is it? Is this even an apple extract?(!) You could even go further and build up a statistical profile of your samples over months and years and observe significant changes from the “norm.”
Also, it could be that we learn about an illegally used substance in a particular commodity that we did not consider during the original analysis. Of course, with full scan we can go back to our data and have a chance to understand the prevalence of that problem. With targeted methods, we would have to go back to the original sample (if it is still available), most probably re-extract, and then re-analyse.
5. You want to be ahead of the curve
“Pesticides analysis is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving” (blatantly paraphrasing Albert Einstein- obviously, he didn’t actually mention pesticide analysis!).
In terms of high resolution approaches for pesticides analysis, I can share with you that there are laboratories out there that are already starting to embrace the new opportunities that these workflows offer.
Would you say your own lab is a pro-active or a reactive considering technology adoption and new approaches? The former offers great opportunity to differentiate in your capability and services with the benefit of stay highly competitive at the forefront of your field; the latter is probably lower risk, but leaves you with an “me too” offering playing catch-up and possibly even being unprepared for macro-changes in your environment, such as new customer requirements, competitor innovations or regulatory updates.
So, there are my five reasons. There are many more of course, but I’ll keep those for another day. Certainly, I am not alone in my thinking; my experiences over the last few years on the conference circuit tells me that high resolution full scan for contaminant analysis is a “hot topic” that shows no signs of cooling down, and that the consensus that this approach forms part of the future for pesticides analysis is growing quickly.
When will your future begin?
Visit the great resources below for more useful information about screening for pesticides with Orbitrap GC-MS technology.