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Journal Articles Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry Year : 2018

An Orbitrap-based laser desorption/ablation mass spectrometer designed for spaceflight


Rationale: The investigation of cryogenic planetary environments as potential harbors for extant life and/or contemporary sites of organic synthesis represents an emerging focal point in planetary exploration. Next generation instruments need to be capable of unambiguously determining elemental and/or molecular stoichiometry via highly accurate mass measurements and the separation of isobaric interferences. Methods: An OrbitrapTM analyzer adapted for spaceflight (referred to as the CosmOrbitrap), coupled with a commercial pulsed UV laser source (266 nm), was used to successfully characterize a variety of planetary analog samples via ultrahigh resolution laser desorption/ablation mass spectrometry. The materials analyzed in this study include: jarosite (a hydrous sulfate detected on Mars); magnesium sulfate (a potential component of the subsurface ocean on Europa); uracil (a nucleobase of RNA); and a variety of amino acids. Results: The instrument configuration tested here enables: measurement of major elements and organic molecules with ultrahigh mass resolution (m/Δm ≥ 120,000, FWHM); quantification of isotopic abundances with <1.0% (2σ) precision; and, identification of highly accurate masses within 3.2 ppm of absolute values. The analysis of a residue of a dilute solution of amino acids demonstrates the capacity to detect twelve amino acids in positive ion mode at concentrations as low as ≤1 pmol/mm2 while maintaining mass resolution and accuracy requirements. Conclusions: The CosmOrbitrap mass analyzer is highly sensitive and delivers mass resolution/accuracy unmatched by any instrument sent into orbit or launched into deep space. This prototype instrument, which maps to a spaceflight implementation, represents a mission‐enabling technology capable of advancing planetary exploration for decades to come.
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insu-01854950 , version 1 (19-03-2020)



Ricardo Arevalo, Laura Selliez, Christelle Briois, Nathalie Carrasco, Laurent Thirkell, et al.. An Orbitrap-based laser desorption/ablation mass spectrometer designed for spaceflight. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 2018, 32 (21), pp.1875-1886. ⟨10.1002/rcm.8244⟩. ⟨insu-01854950⟩
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