Sample preparation and evaluation - Mass Spectroscopy Bundle


Mass spectroscopy is often used to determine the composition of a sample. It is useful in testing for trace elements in environmental, food, or health and safety, applications.

Today, apparatuses and processes for generation of an analyte from a sample for mass spectroscopy are complex and limited in their efficiency; they are limited to only a few elements that can be generated, and many are very complex to implement.

Vapour generation for sample introduction has been widely used for over 40 years, and its efficiency can approach 100%. However, only a small scope of elements is suitable for vapour generation.

Photochemical vapour generation is a newly emerging research field in analytical chemistry, and it may provide a powerful alternative to conventional chemical vapor generation due to its simplicity, versatility and cost-effectiveness. However, improved apparatuses and processes for photochemical vapour generation are needed in the industry.

A novel technology presented here introduces a method of creating analytes and a novel mechanism for their delivery. The simplified, single-chamber apparatus presented can be retrofit to work with existing analyte delivery mechanisms in mass spectrometers. New technology enables efficient separation, reduced interferences from concomitant elements, enhanced efficiency, sensitivity and detection limits.

Technology transfer

This technology is available for licensing or for further development through a collaborative research agreement with NRC. The business opportunity may be referred to by its NRC ID: 11640 and 12196

Market applications

This technology is of particular interest to manufacturers of mass spectrometers.

How it works

Mass spectroscopy is increasingly used for measuring the presence and amounts of substances in samples, with applications in food, security, health and safety industries and is considered an excellent measurement tool. The basic method uses atomic weight profiles (peaks) and electromagnetic radiation absorbed and emitted by atoms that are correlated to a particular compound.

Atomic spectrometry detection frequently requires a liquid sample. There are several techniques for sample vapor generation, but they are conducted in separate equipment modules. They are limited to only a few elements that can be generated and are difficult to implement.

There is a definite need to find new ways to introduce samples for atomic spectroscopy in a more efficient manner. Many are looking at improving equipment, chemical vapor generation and the use of ultraviolet irradiation.

A novel approach for preparing an analyte for atomic spectrometry has been developed. It includes a method for introducing an aerosol of the analyte into a chamber, irradiating the aerosol with UV light, and extracting the vapor from the chamber for use in atomic spectrometry. Unlike many methods available today, this technique is suitable for metallic, metalloid and non-metallic elements. The method takes advantage of photoalkylation by UV light to efficiently prepare a trace element and enhance the transfer of the element to a cell used for its subsequent detection by atomic emission, absorption, fluorescence or mass spectrometry.

The method presents a minor modification to commercially available cyclonic spray chamber to undertake photochemical vapor generation and augment sample introduction efficiency compared to current methods.

A thin-film photochemical vapour generator is a key component of this novel atomic and mass spectroscopy improvement technology and presents a superior analyte delivery mechanism. The generator consists of a reaction chamber having a liquid sample inlet, a carrier gas inlet and a carrier gas outlet; a liquid sample support surface for supporting a film of a liquid sample in the reaction chamber, and a source of ultraviolet radiation positioned in radiative contact with the liquid sample support surface.

The thin-film photochemical vapour generator allows for rapid and very efficient separation of the reaction products, reduced interferences from concomitant elements, flexible UV irradiation time and significant enhancement efficiency for certain elements. The generator and associated processes provide up to 275-fold sensitivity enhancements and up to 300-fold detection limit enhancements. Vapour generation efficiencies exceed about 20% for most analytes.


The technology allows for rapid and very efficient separation of the reaction products, reduced interferences from concomitants, and significant enhancement efficiency for certain elements. Technology enables up to 275 fold sensitivity enhancements and up to 300-fold detection limit enhancements.


NRC file 11640:
Patent granted in US, Canada and Europe

NRC file 12196:
Patent granted in US, pending in Canada


Martin Rutter, Portfolio Business Advisor
Telephone:  613-990-6439

Express Licensing

NRC makes research & development licenses for this technology available under its Express Licensing program. To purchase such a license, please complete the Express Licensing order form.