Borrowing from a different adage, to improve is human. It’s our nature to look for ways to “build a better mousetrap.” One great example is the mass spectrometer, a tool that has evolved from a novel investigative device into a standard industrial diagnostic instrument.
A Century of Investigation
The concept of mass spectrometry was developed more than a century ago, in the mind of British physicist J. J. Thomson. Eventually, he and his assistant performed the first tests of this nature, channeling ionized neon through both magnetic and electrical fields and charting deflection of the particles. In this way, they were able to learn new things about the basic building blocks of the universe.
It didn’t take long for practical applications to appear. In association with the Manhattan Project during World War II, mass spectrometry determined which isotope of uranium was responsible for fission, paving the way for successful atomic weaponry. Peacetime uses soon followed, from analysis in the petrochemical industry to revealing the building blocks of life. Today, the mass spec has made its way into just about every lab in the country, and even television shows such as CSI.
Innovation in the Mass Spec Itself
In the same way that its use has evolved, of course, today’s mass spectrometers look nothing like those early models. In fact, many mid-century scientists built their own mass specs—perhaps believing that they could indeed build that better mousetrap. Certainly, understanding how the machines worked made it easier for scientists to tinker with them in order to achieve the results they were seeking.
Eventually, Westinghouse and Consolidated Engineering Corporation began to create standardized mass spectrometers, but they were huge machines, measuring four to five feet long and two to three feet tall. In the second half of the 20th century, commercial innovation continued in the form of increasingly complex and computerized versions of the mass spectrometer. Today’s machines are much smaller in size but highly computerized, making it easier to tinker with results through the interface rather than by modifying the mass spec machine itself.
A Promising Future for Mass Spectrometry
The uses for this mass spec “better mousetrap” are still evolving. Biochemists and biologists are using mass specs to identify and analyze complex biological structures, including proteins, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates. This is leading to impressive medical breakthroughs and the development of new fields, such as proteomics.
All this work with mass specs has also led to an impressive amount of collaboration within the scientific community. With a professional society that boasts everyone from environmentalists and geologists to astronomers and physicists, mass spectrometry truly impacts the lives of everyone in America, whether they know it or not. A mass spec has even traveled into space!
Making the Connection with Dedicated Lab Furniture
So what does the evolution of mass spectrometry have to do with IonBench? In the same way that the mass spec has evolved over the decades, dedicated lab furniture has also advanced in significant ways. Early labs were set up with whatever furniture was available—often leading to horrific lab safety breaches because the furniture was not suitable for the experiments being conducted upon it.
It didn’t take long for enterprising scientists to begin designing their own lab furniture that was safer to use, often constructing the benches specifically to hold massive machines like those early mass spectrometers. Eventually, commercial vendors like IonBench appeared on the scene, and dedicated lab furniture truly came into its own.
Today, our IonBench is specifically designed with the needs of modern mass specs in mind. IonBench houses the mass spec safely inside the lab bench itself, lowering its inevitable noise by 15 dBA, or better than 75%—addressing another important lab safety issue. Dampening springs also remove vibration, extending the life of the machines on the bench.
This dedicated lab furniture was built to keep pace with the century of innovation in mass spectrometry. Visit the IonBench MS web page today to learn more about how our “better mousetrap” can help improve your lab’s safety and efficiency.