STATE COLLEGE, Pa.—Nanotechnology and materials specialist NanoHorizons announced early in February that it had been issued a patent for its deposited thin-film system, QuickMass, for high-throughput small-molecule MS. According to Dr. Dan Hayes, NanoHorizons manager of operations, the new system brings the benefits of MALDI-MS to a field that has traditionally been dominated by liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization (LC-ESI) MS.
Small molecules are typically analyzed using LC-ESI MS because they fall below the molecular weight cut-off generally associated with MALDI analysis and their signals become confused with those related to matrix compounds. According to Nano-Horizons, however, QuickMass-enabled targets allow researchers to generate small-molecule spectra using matrix-less or thin-layer matrix techniques.
"The new system facilitates low-molecular weight analysis in the range of 0-2000 amu, which covers all small molecules and some peptides," Dr. Hayes says. "And if researchers spot a sample twice, using QuickMass and then traditional matrices, they can do both low- and high-molecular weight analyses on the same sample."
A patented nanoscale non-porous germanium layer is used to desorb the laser energy of the MALDI instrument, removing the need for matrix and allowing the user to acquire clear spectra below 1000 Da. According to Dr. Hayes, the QuickMass method translates into significant time and cost reductions for pharmaceutical development, ADME testing, and natural product research.
"It's really a matter of speed," he adds. "It can take minutes to analyze individual samples using LC, while MALDI spectra can be generated in seconds."
That being said, Dr. Hayes cautions, the method is really only appropriate for people performing high-throughput sampling, al-though it offers performance characteristics comparable to ESI.
QuickMass is already being used by Kratos Analytical, a subsidiary of Shimadzu Biotech, but Dr. Hayes explains that the platform can be used on any mass spectrometer and NanoHorizons designs sample plates to suit most. And because the method involves low-temperature deposition, on practically any substrate, which offers significant savings to users.
This also means that researchers can discard the target after a single use, a feature that is becoming more attractive as companies look to limit or eliminate problems of cross-contamination. Also, because Quick-Mass relies on germanium rather than labile, organic matrices, users can store sample plates indefinitely at room temperature, without degradation, for archival purposes and future retesting.
"Single-use targets are rapidly gaining popularity with high-volume users of MALDI instruments," says Dr. Hayes.