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Ask Yourself These Three Questions When Evaluating a Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry Instrument

Team TFS
Team TFS

mass-spectrometry-triple-quadRecently, I leased a new mid-sized SUV. Deciding to transition from a sedan to an SUV was a lengthy process as I evaluated how important the extra space was to me. Unfortunately, once I decided to commit I was not exactly done with making further decisions. There are multiple well-known car companies which manufacturer SUVs who I had to decide between.

In my blog post, “When Should You walk on the Path to Confident Quantitation?” I talk about limitations of Liquid Chromatography (LC), Liquid Chromatography with Single Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) and Ligand Binding Assays (LBAs) versus triple quadrupole LC-MS. If your laboratory is looking for ultimate sensitivity and selectivity, triple quadrupole LC-MS is the most well-known and accepted technique as also discussed in my blog post, “Purchasing the Right Mass Spectrometer: Triple Quadrupole vs High Resolution Accurate Mass Spectrome....” Once you decide on transitioning to triple quadrupole LC-MS, you are not done just like I was not done once deciding to buy an SUV.

To make your journey easier, I’ve narrowed down the top three questions you need to ask yourself which came in handy for me when evaluating SUV manufacturers.

Can it deal with harsh conditions?

The reason for needing more space in my mid-sized SUV was to be able to take long weekend road trips with my friends and family. Reliability in tough driving conditions (e.g. up into the mountains, snowy weather conditions, etc.) was important to me because who wants to end up stranded on the side of the road?

Similarly, triple quadrupole MS instruments that demonstrate robustness in the face of challenging analytical conditions ultimately help minimize system downtime. As demonstrated in Figure 1, the Thermo Scientific TSQ Triple Quadrupole MS instruments demonstrate low variability for different immunosuppressants in whole blood over 2,700 sample injections.

[caption id="attachment_20568" align="alignnone" width="1167"]mass-spectrometry-1 Click to enlarge[/caption]

Can a newbie operate it?

I’ve been driving a sedan for decades. Making turns around tight curbs, parking in narrow spots and parallel parking was a learning experience with my SUV. Furthermore, getting used to all the new commands and buttons in a new car to do simple things like call my mother required learning the technology.

With today’s advances in feature sets offered in triple quadrupole instrumentation, understanding how to get an instrument up and running may seem complicated for all user levels, quite frankly. Furthermore, acquiring data without hiccups can become a time-consuming task if you are unable to quickly come up to speed on instrument control software. For the TSQ Triple Quadrupole MS instruments, the method editor comes with pre-defined method templates which include optimized precursor and product masses, collision energies and general settings as depicted below in Figure 2. This enables users to move from method set-up to analysis quickly.

[caption id="attachment_20569" align="alignnone" width="1227"]mass-spectrometry-2 Click to enlarge[/caption]

When it comes to data analysis, most consider software designed solely for MS. However, have you considered a software platform that delivers full control of both your chromatography and mass spectrometry instrument? The Thermo Scientific Chromeleon 7.2 Chromatography Data System (CDS) is the first solution in the market that provides this very capability in an enterprise environment. Essentially, a laboratory can reduce the time spent on training instrument operators for data analysis and reporting by using Chromeleon CDS. Furthermore, the choice of which separation technique (IC, GC or LC) the laboratory uses does not matter. Compliance is another consideration to keep in mind if your laboratory needs to meet regulatory requirements including US FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and EU Annex 11. To learn more about how Chromeleon CDS helps meet compliance requirements, I do recommend visiting this resource page on compliance and data security.

For laboratories interested primarily in a MS dedicated data analysis software platform, the Thermo Scientific™ TraceFinder™ Software streamlines both targeted screening and quantitation workflows with a host of other features designed to address critical challenges in your routine or even advanced MS methods.

Can it make my day more productive?

I used to be hesitant to use cruise control or the rear side camera in my SUV, simply because of my fear of trusting the new technology in my car. Eventually, I realized that the benefits outweighed my fears. Features like cruise control and the camera save me time and frustration, especially on long drives or in crowded parking lots.

Thermo Fisher Scientific recently introduced the Thermo Scientific Almanac web-based application, which allows you to access and manage your MS system (including your triple quadrupole MS system) from anywhere. The application (also available as a mobile app in the Apple App store or Google Play store!) enables users to:

    • Schedule instrument access


    • View data which is being currently acquired


    • Set up real-time notifications when acquisition is complete or if there are errors


    • Access instrument history including last calibration or service


    • Record user events so anyone knows what has been done on the instrument

When you need assistance, you can also send your service team relevant instrument parameters so they can quickly come up to speed and diagnose potential issues. The paranoia in me came out when I learned about this feature. In today’s world, we wake up to news daily about personal data being compromised or shared in an unauthorized manner. To be quite honest, I would be hesitant to share raw data or sample information that would be confidential. The good news is that none of your confidential sample related information is sent to our secure Connect site – only relevant instrument level information. In this case, you can experience both the benefits of increased productivity/improved system uptime AND not worry about confidential data being compromised. It’s a win-win!