Mass spectrometry is used in a variety of different fields in order to measure the masses within a sample.
The mass spectrometer is also used to measure the mass of broken down products that have been smashed by high energy atoms. In snazzy chemistry lingo this is the fragmentation pattern.
The stages of operation for mass spectrometry are: injection, vaporisation, ionisation, acceleration, deflection and detection.
In a typical mass spectrometry procedure, a sample, which may be solid, liquid, or gas, is ionized, for example by bombarding it with electrons. This may cause some of the sample’s molecules to break into charged fragments.
These ions are then separated according to their mass-to-charge ratio, typically by accelerating them and subjecting them to an electric or magnetic field: ions of the same mass-to-charge ratio will undergo the same amount of deflection.
The ions are detected by a mechanism capable of detecting charged particles, such as an electron multiplier. Results are then displayed as spectra of the relative abundance of detected ions as a function of the mass-to-charge ratio.
The atoms or molecules in the sample can be identified by correlating known masses to the identified masses or through a characteristic fragmentation pattern.
And that’s how mass spectrometry helps us detect atom and molecule masses within a sample, easy!