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Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that produces spectra (singular spectrum) of the masses of the molecules comprising a sample of material. The spectra are used to determine the elemental composition of a sample, the masses of particles and of molecules, and to elucidate the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and other chemical compounds. Mass spectrometry works by ionizing chemical compounds to generate charged molecules or molecule fragments and measuring their mass-to-charge ratios.
In a typical MS procedure, a sample, which may be solid, liquid, or gas, is ionized. The ions are separated according to their mass-to-charge ratio. The ions are detected by a mechanism capable of detecting charged particles. Signal processing results are displayed as spectra of the relative abundance of ions as a function of the mass-to-charge ratio. The atoms or molecules can be identified by correlating known masses to the identified masses or through a characteristic fragmentation pattern.
A mass spectrometer consists of three components: an ion source, a mass analyzer, and a detector. The ionizer converts a portion of the sample into ions. There is a wide variety of ionization techniques, depending on the phase (solid, liquid, gas) of the sample and the efficiency of various ionization mechanisms for the unknown species. An extraction system removes ions from the sample, which are then trajected through the mass analyzer and onto the detector. The differences in masses of the fragments allows the mass analyzer to sort the ions by their mass-to-charge ratio. The detector measures the value of an indicator quantity and thus provides data for calculating the abundances of each ion present. Some detectors also give spatial information, e.g. a multichannel plate.
Mass spectrometry has both qualitative and quantitative uses. These include identifying unknown compounds, determining the isotopic composition of elements in a molecule, and determining the structure of a compound by observing its fragmentation. Other uses include quantifying the amount of a compound in a sample or studying the fundamentals of gas phase ion chemistry (the chemistry of ions and neutrals in a vacuum). MS is now in very common use in analytical laboratories that study physical, chemical, or biological properties of a great variety of compounds.
As an analytical technique it possesses distinct advantages such as: 1. Increased sensitivity over most other analytical techniques because the analyzer, as a mass-charge filter, reduces background interference 2. Excellent specificity from characteristic fragmentation patterns to identify unknowns or confirm the presence of suspected compounds. 3. Information about molecular weight. 4. Information about the isotopic abundance of elements. 5. Temporally resolved chemical data.
A few of the disadvantages of the method is that often fails to distinguish between optical and geometrical isomers and the positions of substituent in o-, m- and p- positions in an aromatic ring. Also, its scope is limited in identifying hydrocarbons that produce similar fragmented ions. Source of the article published in description is Wikipedia. I am sharing their material. Copyright by original content developers of Wikipedia.