SIFT-MS Profiles VOCs of Extra-Terrestrial Arrivals!

2 months ago

On February 28, 2021 a meteorite struck the town of Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom (UK). This meteorite was a carbonaceous chondrite and provides a near-pristine example of the composition of primitive asteroids, as described in the recent article in the prestigious journal Science Advances (see https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abq3925).

The carbonaceous nature of this meteorite means that organic compounds are likely to be present due to oxidation. Hence Dr Mark Perkins at Element Materials Technology, Syft’s UK distribution partner, was approached to analyze two microscopic meteorite samples (17.8 and 15.7 mg each) using selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS). SIFT-MS is ideally suited to detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The SIFT-MS method is described briefly on page 11 of the article, with C1 to C6 alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, and carboxylic acids targeted.

Results of the headspace- SIFT-MS analysis are summarized in Section 18 (page 19) and Figure S23 (page 45) of the supplementary materials (https://www.science.org/doi/suppl/10.1126/sciadv.abq3925/suppl_file/sciadv.abq3925_sm.pdf). They illustrate the ease with which SIFT-MS detects and quantifies polar, low-molecular-weight VOCs, such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, direct from headspace with no derivatization or solvent extraction required.

No wonder the researchers chose SIFT-MS to tackle this challenge!