Mass Spectroscopy (MS)

Published: | Updated: November 24, 2020

Definition - What does Mass Spectroscopy (MS) mean?

Mass spectroscopy is an analytical technique used to identify the composition of a chemical substance based on the mass-to-charge ratio of its various components. More specifically, the masses within the sample are ionized and sorted based on their reaction to a constant magnetic field. Mass spectroscopy is typically performed using equipment such as mass spectrometers and mass spectrographs.

Mass spectroscopy is also known as mass spectrometry.

Corrosionpedia explains Mass Spectroscopy (MS)

Mass spectroscopy operates on the principle that ions moving through a magnetic field are deflected by varying amounts based on their mass and charge. This technique involves five distinct stages:

  • Vaporization
  • Ionization
  • Acceleration
  • Deflection
  • Detection

The sample to be analyzed is first converted to a vapor via a heating element. The vaporized particles are then bombarded with electrons via an electron gun, which “knocks off” electrons from the atoms or molecules from the vaporized sample to create positively charged ions.

The positively charged ions are then accelerated towards the magnetic field via an ion-accelerating electric field. When the ions approach the magnetic field they are deflected before coming into contact with a detection plate to produce an electric current.

Because the magnitude of deflection of the particles is proportional to the mass-to-charge ratio, various particles will produce different currents on the detection plate, thus allowing analysts to identify the masses (and by extension elements) that make up a particular substance.

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