Business Insight: A Deep Dive into Bruker’s New Mass Spectrometry Division

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Bruker has been working to grow its mass spectrometry (MS) business.

In April 2022, the company acquired IonSense, a company focused on direct analysis in real time (DART). The acquisition of IonSense was strategic, as Bruker wanted to grow its mass spectrometry division. Since then, the company has launched several products in the competitive MS marketplace, and has plans to do more moving forward, including a partnership to advance point of need analysis.

LCGC International sat down with Jeff Zonderman, senior vice president of Bruker Applied MS at Analytica, in Munich, Germany, to discuss long-term goals for the business and trends in MS analysis.

Jeff Zonderman is the senior vice president of Bruker Applied MS. Courtesy of Bruker.

Jeff Zonderman is the senior vice president of Bruker Applied MS. Courtesy of Bruker.

Bruker launched its new applied mass spectrometry division a year ago now. What have you been working on since its inception?

Bruker started a new division a year ago called Bruker Applied Mass Spectrometry. One of the flagship products is a new triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (TQ-MS) called the EVOQ DART-TQ+.

The main benefit for customers is that its focus is chromatography-free workflows in addition to traditional modes. We found when talking to our customers in the applied markets for routine analysis – whether forensics, toxicology, food, environmental, polymer, industrial, or clinical research – they're challenged by the bottleneck and the complexities associated with chromatography systems. Liquid chromatography (LC) is a very powerful tool, but it can also be an area that poses challenges for many people who are running LC–MS. The expertise that is required to run LC is not accessible to many people in the routine laboratory and the EVOQ DART TQ+ provides an option to work chromatography-free.

Another focus area is trapped ion mobility spectrometry-time of flight (TIMS-TOF). The industry really needs a separation technique to identify compounds as quickly and efficiently as possible. That’s where ion mobility and TIMS-TOF really stand out as next generation analytical technologies.

We can identify compounds very accurately with collisional cross section (CCS) values and ion mobility allows an additional feature for enhanced database searching and identification. When running an unknown sample, you can identify and classify molecules with more accuracy when including their CCS values. Ion mobility allows the separation of isomeric species as well as removing noise thus enhancing sensitivity. Ion mobility and TIMS-TOF allow our customers to perform very complex separations efficiently and quantitatively, that wouldn’t be possible with chromatography alone as other techniques fail for highly sensitive parts per trillion (PPT) analysis.

Can you discuss some of the work Bruker is doing around improving sustainability?

High throughput labs create a massive amount of organic waste. Our customers are now putting in their terms and conditions that Bruker needs to move towards sustainable products and remove 90 percent of the organic solvent waste.

Most of our customers have environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies, as does Bruker, and we’re taking steps to improve our sustainability profile. We are showing that it’s possible to remove 95 percent of the organic waste in a workflow with techniques like DART. Removing the reliance on traditional solvents in chromatography, such as acetonitrile, which is harmful to the environment, is a serious step in the right direction.

Part of Bruker’s ESG policy is to reduce our carbon footprint. We have recently opened the doors to our brand-new manufacturing facility, with many sustainability concepts in place, such as solar panels and heat recovery systems. We're excited to have some innovative technologies that can show our customers and people around the world that we are taking the right steps towards sustainable manufacturing now and in the future.

How have PFAS regulations in the United States and Europe impacted instrument development?

The EPA has strict guidelines on environmental sample analysis, which includes methodologies that use LC-MS. We're running EPA-recommended methods using the LC-MS functionality of the EVOQ DART-TQ+. We are working on using the EPA methods in a high-throughput sense, which is not yet feasible. Many large labs are evaluating DART and TIMS-TOF for their capability to run rapid screening of PFAS.

Another big area we are focused on is dioxins. The method outlined by the EPA is over 30 years old and, with new contaminants emerging all the time, it needs to be updated. Technologies like TIMS-TOF can be used to enable researchers to rapidly and accurately screen samples.This newer technology is being adopted in Europe to meet European guidelines.

We believe ion mobility and DART techniques are the future. There is still a place for chromatography, but emerging techniques are proving more sustainable and more reliable. The cost of ownership of DART is very attractive for high throughput testing labs.

It's becoming more difficult for laboratories to find experienced chromatographers. Is this something you’re seeing with customers and how are you addressing it?

DART workflows make the technology more accessible to non-expert users. This is a growing benefit for applied sector labs, where the budgets are tighter, and the purchase decision tends to be more of a cost discussion than a technology discussion.

What role do vendors like Bruker play in training customers on new technology? Are you taking a bigger role in customer training?

Training is an ongoing challenge for laboratories, and we’ve had customer feedback that confirms this. We have a majority share in a small company, PinPoint Testing, that provides training and offers expertise that other vendors don’t have to our customers.

And with our other recent investments, we’re looking at the whole workflow, rather than just the MS instrument. We can teach people how to do sample preparation and we provide a kit; we can teach people how to spot samples on a plate; and we can teach people how to run the mass spectrometer and to run, maintain and understand the whole workflow.

What new investments and partnerships are you exploring?

We have an investment in a company called TOFWERK and we have launched a new product called ecTOF. The ecTOF is a high-resolution GC–MS instrument that can perform electron impact and chemical ionization (EI/CI) in a single run, which means parent ions (CI generated) and product or fragment ions (EI generated) align with the same retention times all on the same run. It saves time as researchers don't have to run EI and CI separately, nor run EI/CI on two different systems that do not precisely align. This approach removes many of the false positive library search results that result on single run systems. Aligning the retention times in one run solves a big problem in the lab.

We're also starting to collaborate with TOFWERK on ‘point of need’ mass spectrometry. There's an increasing number of publications that cover drug seizures, drug analysis, paraphernalia analysis, or food and pesticide analysis, or explosives analysis at airports—all conducted in the field with DART. We’re looking ahead at what technologies we have in the lab now and how we can put those techniques into the field with a point of need solution. Smaller benchtop and handheld instruments will be part of that journey.

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