Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Maciej Bromirski interviewed Professor Stanisław Popiel and Dr. Jakub Nawała of Military University of Technology (MUT) at the Institute of Chemistry. MUT is a state Polytechnic at the University level established in 1951 in Warsaw, Poland. For over 50 years MUT has gained experience and national and international prominence as a top-tier technological research university. MUT is now considered one of the leading centers of education and research in Poland. Over the past year, they have gained experience in the analysis of Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs) with the high resolution, high mass accuracy Thermo Scientific™ Q Exactive™ Focus mass spectrometer. Here is a snippet of the conversation:
Q: What type of work are you involved in and what is your area of expertise?
A: Our specialty is analytical chemistry, especially the analysis of dangerous substances, such as chemical warfare agents, explosives and their degradation products. Our main task is the development and validation of analytical methods based on both gas and liquid chromatography especially in combination with mass and tandem mass spectrometry. Currently our main interests are monitoring the Baltic Sea for the presence of these chemical warfare agents, including the analysis of sediments, water and pore water samples by using GC-MS/MS and LC-MS/MS. We are also focused on the application of the Thermo Scientific™ Orbitrap™ mass spectrometer in analysis of chemical warfare agents, explosive and their degradation products in environmental samples. Additionally, we concentrate on the comparison of analytical capabilities of the Orbitrap MS and triple quad MS in the analysis of these chemical warfare agents, which include such parameters as the limit of detection and quantification, linearity range, precision, accuracy and sensitivity.
Q: Is the Thermo Scientific™ Q Exactive™ Focus Orbitrap MS living up to your expectations?
A: From our previous experience, we can say that Q Exactive Focus MS fulfils our expectation in the field of environmental analysis. We’re very glad to have the opportunity to work on this type of mass spectrometer because the flexibility of the Q Exactive Focus MS allows us to conduct various studies, not only in analytical chemistry, but also in the study of CWAs and explosives degradation paths in the marine environment.
Q: Why is Orbitrap technology important for your applications?
A: Compared to the widely-used triple quad, the Orbitrap MS allows us to conduct both qualitative and quantitative analysis of environmental samples. The triple quad MS gives us only very sensitive quantitative analysis, but the identification of unknown compounds is practically impossible if you do not have standards. In the case of our research, the possibility to identify unknown substances is very important, especially during the study of environmental degradation pathways. Therefore the Orbitrap technology is critically important for our work.
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Q: How do you see the future of Orbitrap LC-MS analysis in explosives?
A: Studies which we have carried out so far have shown that the use of the LC-Orbitrap MS gives promising results. We believe that our work on the development and validation of methods for analysis of all explosives and their degradation products will allow for their practical use during environmental monitoring and forensic science. In addition, the possibility of substance identification by the Orbitrap MS gives us the opportunity for more complex analysis of environmental or forensic samples.
Q: Would you recommend the Orbitrap MS technology to other explosives labs?
A: Yes, we can recommend the Orbitrap MS technology to other labs. The Orbitrap MS gives us the possibility of both qualitative and quantitative analysis of explosives and their degradation products. Limit of detection and quantification are only slightly higher than limit-of-detection (LOD) and limit-of-quantitation (LOQ) compared to high performing triple quad MS. Creating a spectrum library of explosives and their degradation products for the Orbitrap MS will be an additional advantage of this technique in analysis of these compounds.
In summary, the Orbitrap MS application in analysis of CWAs, explosives and their degradation products is very promising. The primary advantage of the Orbitrap MS is that LOD and LOQ are on satisfactory levels and we are able to analyze known compounds on at least ppb levels and we also have the possibility to identify unknown substances. Such possibilities are only available from a very small number of analytical instruments. The LC-Orbitrap MS system delivers outstanding quantitative and qualitative performance within a single instrument.
Prof. Stanisław Popiel and Dr. Jakub Nawała, thank you kindly for this interview, for your insight on the nature of your work and your experience with the Orbitrap technology. I am sure that your research work will bring many effective scientific publications in the application of chemical warfare agents.