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Team TFS
Team TFS
mass spectrometryCan a nursery rhyme, Lego blocks and the Orbitrap mass spectrometer (MS) really have something in common? Well, recently I saw Alexander Makarov (the inventor of the Orbitrap MS) presenting a talk in Stockholm during which he described how our quadrupole Orbitrap MS was made of building blocks with little piggies traveling through it as if they were ions.

It made me laugh and reminded me that my mother used to recite it to me when I was a little child while ticking my toes and I too shared it with my three daughters and made them laugh while tickling them!


How the Quadrupole Orbitrap Mass Spectrometer Works

The concept of the quadrupole Orbitrap MS (Thermo Scientific Q Exactive mass spectrometer) is straightforward: there is a mass selective quadrupole which can either be used to pass a selected mass range of ions for full-scan MS to the Orbitrap or used to isolate  ions (or piggies) of a single mass for tandem MS or selected ion monitoring (SIM). The ions pass through the quadrupole to the Orbitrap mass analyzer via a device known as the c-trap.

In the case of tandem MS, also called MS/MS, they first travel to a collision cell for higher energy dissociation (HCD) before being measured in the Orbitrap MS, all of this taking a fraction of a second. Ions in the Orbitrap MS experience a movement, the frequency of which can be converted, very accurately via an inverse Fourier transform, into a mass spectrum. The properties of the data that comes from the Orbitrap MS are high mass accuracy and high mass resolution.

There is more to it than that but that is the basic concept of how the system works. So, in the Q Exactive you have a mass spectrometer that measures very accurately, reproducibly and precisely the m/z of an ion or ions and also the quantity. This leads the Q Exactive to be a very powerful instrument in both qualitative as well as quantitative applications. There is now a huge volume of peer reviewed literature that describes the use of the Q Exactive in diverse applications such as toxicology, biopharma, sports anti-doping, environmental, proteomics and many, many more. (All links take you to our community pages featuring applications, on-demand webinars, and more in these markets.)

To learn how the Lego Q Exactive and the Orbitrap MS work, and how this technology is changing the face of science, watch the following 5-min video animation on how the Q Exactive works in full-scan analysis, MS/MS analysis, and multiplexing analysis.


Check out the application library at, a knowledge resource of all things Orbitrap MS.


Do you use our Orbitrap MS technology in your lab? If yes, do share your  experiences.