Sign up for NPL updates
Sign up for NPL updates

Receive regular emails from NPL to get a glimpse of our activities and see how our experts are informing and influencing scientific debate

Mass spectrometry imaging

Fundamentals and instrument development

Advancing mass spectrometry imaging by making our measurements more sensitive, accurate and reproducible

Both secondary ion and matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation mass spectrometry (SIMS and MALDI MS) are currently limited in terms of limits-of-detection. To increase the spatial resolution of these techniques, the “primary” beam/sample interaction volume must be reduced. This, in turn, reduces, the number of “secondary” ions available for analysis, which adversely affects the detection limit. Therefore, we are developing new methodologies and instrumentation to improve the limit-of-detection of these instruments by implementing post-ionisation strategies to the vast fraction of secondary neutrally charged atoms and molecules generated by the primary beam, but otherwise unavailable for analysis owing to their lack of charge, preventing them from being steered into the mass spectrometer by the ion optics of the instrument.

To study the feasibility of these post-ionisation strategies, NPL has designed a range of new instrumentation including new atmospheric pressure and vacuum based MALDI ion sources. We also have a novel a portable mass spectrometer, which is used as a test-bed at various light sources including synchrotron beamlines and variable wavelength table-top laser systems.  

We are working in consultation with commercial partners to demonstrate that the technology transfer to established instruments is feasible. We have close collaborations with leading scientists working in the fields of analytical and physical chemistry to increase our understanding of optically induced ionisation and fragmentation processes.

Lead researcher

Rory T Steven

Senior scientist

Work with us

Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070