The Power of SIFT-MS in Environmental Analysis

Martin Perkins

24th January 2024

Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry, SIFT-MS,

Environmental analysis is a critical aspect of understanding and mitigating the impact of human activities on the planet. At Element Lab Solutions, our goal is to make this analysis as straightforward and effective as possible, whether you are a contract testing laboratory or work in industries that have specific regulatory requirements and oversight. We develop processes that help to identify pollutants, assess air and water quality, understand emissions from materials and help to improve workflows and general analytical capability. 

Traditional environmental analysis methods often face limitations in terms of sensitivity, speed, and the range of compounds that can be detected. Additionally, these methods may require complex sample preparation and involve the use of hazardous chemicals. As a result, there is a growing need for technologies that can provide real-time, accurate, and comprehensive data for a wide range of environmental contaminants. 

Enter SIFT-MS. Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS), is an innovative analytical technique for environmental analysis. Developed to address the limitations of traditional methods, SIFT-MS offers rapid, sensitive, and selective detection of a wide range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and inorganic gases in real-time. By adding automation to the system, high-throughput analysis of soils, plastics, water – in fact, anything you can get into a vial – is possible. 

The Key Advantages of SIFT-MS in Environmental Analysis include: 

  1. High Sensitivity: SIFT-MS can detect compounds at low concentrations (sub parts-per-billion (ppbV)), making it highly effective in monitoring trace levels of pollutants in the environment. 
  2. Real-time Analysis: Unlike traditional methods that may involve time-consuming sample preparation and analysis, SIFT-MS provides real-time data, enabling quick decision-making in response to environmental challenges. 
  3. Wide Compound Coverage: SIFT-MS is capable of simultaneously analysing a broad spectrum of compounds, including VOCs and inorganic gases, offering a comprehensive view of environmental conditions. 
  4. Reduced Sample Preparation: The simplicity of sample preparation in SIFT-MS minimizes the risk of contamination and streamlines the analysis process. 
  1. Quantitative Analysis: SIFT-MS provides quantitative data, allowing for accurate measurement of compound concentrations in the environment. 
  2. Mobile Measurement: SIFT-MS can be installed and operated from a mobile laboratory, enabling measurements to be made on-site, at the point it is needed. 

SIFT-MS can be used in a wide variety of environmental applications, where understanding VOC release and is important. Applications include: 

  1. Air Quality Monitoring: SIFT-MS is employed in monitoring ambient air quality, helping to identify and quantify pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur compounds, and VOCs. 
  2. Emissions Testing: The technology is used in emissions testing for industries, vehicles, and other sources to assess their impact on the environment and comply with regulatory standards. 
  3. Indoor Air Quality Assessment: SIFT-MS aids in assessing indoor air quality by detecting and quantifying pollutants that may affect human health. 
  4. Environmental Research: Researchers leverage SIFT-MS for studying chemical processes in the atmosphere, soil, and water, contributing to a better understanding of environmental dynamics. 
  5. Material Emissions Analysis: Any material can release VOCs and if these can have an impact on consumers, SIFT-MS allows for rapid screening of potential QC failures. 

SIFT-MS allows you to look deeper into your processes, giving you greater scientific insight – more knowledge brings better decision making. 


If this article was of interest, be sure to check out our related App Note: AS244: Methanolic Extraction of Soils by Automated Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS).