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Answers Out of Thin Air (and Water)!

Martin Perkins

13th May 2015

2-alkyl, 3-alkylbenzenes, 4 ppbv NPL 30 Component Ozone Precursor, Isomers, Mark Perkins, pptv, Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry, SIFT-MS, Syft Voice200Ultra, VOC,


Anatune recently took delivery of a Voice200Ultra SIFT-MS and for the last two weeks I have been demonstrating its capabilities, with the help of Dr Barry Prince from Syft Technologies.

After a pain-free installation – we were promised half a day and this was duly delivered – I was able to perform real time, quantitative measurements, without the need for external calibration.

The sensitivity of SIFT-MS has improved enormously in the last few years and the Voice200ultra can measure VOC concentrations in the low parts-per-trillion (pptv) in just a few seconds. The figure below shows the measurement of selected compounds from a 4 ppbv NPL 30-component ozone precursor standard. This was carried out in Anatune’s applications laboratory within one hour of receiving the sample – and with no external calibration. (Note – the 2-alkyl- and 3-alkylbenzenes are reported as the sum of their respective number of isomers).

The measurements in SIFT-MS are inherently quantitative because the ionisation processes are well-known and highly controlled. The Voice200ultra reagent ions are generated, via microwave discharge, from a bottle of water with some air in it (see picture) – so you really can generate meaningful answers out of thin air (and some water)!

This picture shows the reagent bottle and the purple glow from the microwave discharge behind.

I will be looking at further applications over the next few weeks, in anticipation of our forthcoming Workshops in May.

If you would like to know more about the possibilities that SIFT-MS can offer, or would like to visit us for a demonstration, please email enquiries@anatune.co.uk, or call us on 01223 279210.