Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are making groundbreaking discoveries in the chemical world using a new mass spectrometry technique known as m/q (“m over q”). This technique aims to shed light on the vast universe of chemicals, with the hope of uncovering cures for diseases, solutions for climate change, and identifying new chemical and biological threats.
Currently, researchers have only managed to identify approximately 1 percent of the billions of chemicals present in the universe. This is mainly due to the limitations of existing identification methods, which rely on reference libraries. These libraries only provide information for compounds that have been previously identified, meaning that new and unknown chemicals remain a mystery.
To overcome these limitations, the m/q Initiative combines two high-resolution instruments to provide unprecedented detail about molecules. The first instrument, a mass spectrometer, measures an ion’s mass, electric charge, and how it breaks apart. The second instrument, known as SLIM (structures for lossless ion manipulations), measures an ion’s size and electric charge.
By combining the data from both instruments, researchers are able to gather crucial information about a molecule’s structure, collision cross-section, molecular formula, and fragmentation pattern. This technique allows scientists to make multiple important measurements about chemical compounds in a single experiment, leading to faster and more accurate results.
The implications of this research are far-reaching. It has the potential to enhance our understanding of microbial impact on climate, as well as applications in pharmaceuticals, environmental analysis, and public safety. With this new mass spectrometry technique, scientists can broaden their perspectives and potentially identify new compounds that could revolutionize various fields.
The m/q Initiative at PNNL funded the research described in the paper, which was conducted at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. This laboratory, a DOE Office of Science user facility at PNNL, provides the necessary resources for cutting-edge research like this. With continued support and advancement in this field, we can expect even more groundbreaking discoveries and potentially life-changing applications in the near future.