Although the technological principles that underlay its conception date back to 1923, when Kingdon first described orbital trapping using an enclosed metal can and charged wire, the first Orbitrap-based mass spectrometer entered the market more than 80 years later. In 2005, Thermo Electron introduced its first Orbitrap mass spectrometer.
This initial commercial Orbitrap system combined high-resolution, accurate mass (HRAM) detection with the benefits of a linear ion trap. The research community, and especially proteomics as a discipline, enthusiastically welcomed an instrument that met the then-current standard for resolution, mass accuracy and speed while eliminating the issues that came with FT-ICR machines (maintenance and space concerns) or time-of-flight (TOF) instruments (lower sensitivity, dynamic range and resolution). HRAM capability allowed researchers to detect multiply charged species in complex mixtures and improved database searching with accurate mass detection. For discovery, scientists were able to harness this instrument’s full-scan mode to compile a list of precursors suitable for MS/MS by collision-induced dissociation (CID) within a single run. And even though the technology appears to be more complex, the high resolution and accurate mass actually make analyses simpler, reducing the need for tedious method development.
Moving forward toward GC-MS application
Further accessibility to Orbitrap mass analyzer technology came in the form of the Thermo Scientific Orbitrap Exactive and Q Exactive mass spectrometers. By 2011, the speed of the Orbitrap was further improved by a factor of four, by combining enhanced Fourier transform algorithms that doubled resolving power, and the high-field “compact Orbitrap.” The elimination of the ion trap mass analyzer reduced cost and complexity, producing a bench-top instrument that could perform full-scan detection and higher-energy collisional dissociation (HCD) without precursor selection. This led to the development of protocols for Orbitrap-only detection, and enabled HRAM screening of known and unknown analytes with very high selectivity (< 5 ppm). It also facilitated retrospective analysis of full-scan data. Finally, there was an Orbitrap analyzer that was completely compatible with gas chromatography (GC) separations. In 2015, exactly 10 years after the introduction of the first Orbitrap system, the Q Exactive GC and later Exactive GC were launched.
Watch the virtual launch (on-demand): Your GC-MS Future Today – A Special Virtual Event
Introducing the next generation
The Thermo Scientific Orbitrap Q Exactive GC and Exactive GC was an important milestone in GC-MS history, but that was just the beginning of more expansion ahead. In 2021, we are pleased to introduce the next generation of GC Orbitrap technology – the Thermo Scientific Orbitrap Exploris GC and Orbitrap Exploris GC 240 mass spectrometers. With those two systems, Thermo Fisher Scientific is extending the Orbitrap Exploris portfolio to high-resolution accurate-mass GC-MS.
Watch the video: Orbitrap Exploris GC
The Orbitrap Exploris GC 240 mass spectrometer and the Orbitrap Exploris GC mass spectrometer provide the sensitivity, selectivity, and linear dynamic range to meet the toughest analytical challenges. These systems allow analytical testing laboratories to simplify operations and deliver consistently accurate results. For research, they take laboratory capability to a new level of performance to accelerate scientific discovery.
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Expanding analytical power and research capabilities
In a new compact design, the Orbitrap Exploris GC simplifies analytical workflows, which brings the versatility of full-scan, high-resolution accurate-mass data to screening and quantitation. The system delivers accurate results sample after sample, with proven robustness and reliability across all applications to support, succeed, and exceed challenges in routine and analytical testing. It also provides unique flexibility to keep pace with changing regulations and demands.
The Orbitrap Exploris GC 240 takes research capability to an unprecedented level of performance to accelerate scientific research. The mass analyzer provides 240,000 mass resolving power, MS/MS capability, and leading sensitivity to researchers across all applications to expand the boundaries of discovery. By delivering accurate qualitative and quantitative information, the system provides the flexibility to address the demands of research laboratories for compound identification and quantitation. From discovery profiling, metabolomics, industry research, and applied quantification analyses, you will gain unparalleled access to information-rich data with ease.
What Orbitrap technology means for the world of GC-MS
The breakthrough of hyphenating GC with Orbitrap technology was and still is a powerful combination of accurate mass and high sensitivity. Typically, optimization of mass accuracy comes at the sacrifice of sensitivity and speed. Consequently, instruments that are not constrained by mass accuracy – triple quadrupoles, for example – benefit in terms of sensitivity and speed but accurate-mass instruments – time-of-flight systems – suffer from a severe compromise in other features. Orbitrap technology combines the best attributes of both, offering unsurpassed speed and sensitivity with high resolution and mass accuracy that are essential for both analytical testing and research applications.
Virtual launch (on-demand): Your GC-MS Future Today – A Special Virtual Event
Webpage: High-Resolution Accurate-Mass GC-MS
Analytical Chemistry Article: Evolution of Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry Instrumentation – Annual Review of Analytical Chemistry