ASMS 2020 Reboot: The development of Mass Spectrometry

Posted by Dieter Müller on Jul 10, 2020 12:30:00 PM

The American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) is the largest society in the world of Mass Spectrometry and its applications. Its Annual Conference is held at varying locations in the USA and Canada with around 6,500 participants, some 3,000 posters and 400 oral presentations alongside a large vendor exhibition. This year's conference was planned in Houston, Texas for May 31 - June 4 but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the conference was shifted from a face-to-face event into an online format.


ASMS 2020 Reboot


The event content will be available until August 31 and registration is available until July 24. The fee varies from $ 35 to $ 125. Please refer to for more information.

Webinars included Single-Cell Mass Spectrometry from Peter Nemes (University of Maryland) and Glycoprotein Analysis for Understanding Human Disease by Heather Desaire (University of Kansas), focusing on the intersection of glycobiology and mass spectrometry and the opportunities and challenges this raises.

Live workshops were conducted by various interest groups and independent organisers. These focused on the advantages and disadvantages of Sample Preparation in Ambient Ionization Direct Introduction Mass Spectrometry, Multi-omics Research using Mass Spectrometry, and the latest trends in Ion Traps for Space Research. Highlights included a session on how technology such as Machine Learning enhances mass spectrometry, as well as advances in automation for proteomics sample preparation.


Vacuum technology and Mass Spectrometry

Vacuum technology plays a major role in mass spectrometry, particularly with the growing demand in medical research in the field of virology. These instruments are found in research and analytic labs as well as hospitals with most methods using high and ultrahigh vacuum conditions to analyse the samples.

The various types of mass spectrometers ionize samples and analyse the compounds in one or several quadrupoles in series. The functional principle of the quadrupoles is the same as in residual gas analysers. Mass spectrometry has many significant sub-disciplines, all of which rely upon vacuum technology. These include electrospray ionisation (ESI); desorption electrospray ionisation (DESI); rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometry (REIMS); and acoustic mist ionisation mass spectrometry (AMI-MS). These highly specialised fields contribute to uncovering the mysteries of the effectiveness of drug treatments and bio-medical science in general.


The history of mass spectrometry  

On the ASMS webpage you can find a range of interesting history posters. One of the posters explains the evolution of mass spectrometry from 1910 to the 1940’s, including the use of mass spectrometry to measure the masses of elements in 1913, the discovery of the proton in 1918 and Dr. A.O.C. Nier adapting his mass spectrometer to make a highly sensitive helium leak detector in 1943. This also highlighted the limitations of early designs e.g. the poor vacuum of J.J. Thomson's mass analyser and how scientist such as Francis William Aston were able to adapt this to investigate the mass of relative abundance of elements and their isotopes.

Several new posters have been published for the ASMS 2020 Reboot. A poster that stands out is the 'History of Forensic Mass Spectrometry' which explains the use of mass spectrometers in Drugs and Toxicology, Gunshot Residue and Explosives as well as Trace, Fibers and Hair. Other new posters show the history of several major players in the mass spectrometer market such as KRATOS, SHIMADZU, and VG-WATERS-MICROMASS, traditional and innovative companies that have been in the market for many decades.



The shift to an online event did not stop the ASMS from continuing to attract high quality novel contributions in the field of vacuum technology. The event highlighted the importance of mass spectrometry in a range of essential fields such as medical and forensic as well as how this has evolved overtime with technological developments and new pumping systems.

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