Department of Analytical Chemistry acquires a new mass spectrometer and other lab instruments

David Milde from the Department of Analytical Chemistry
Photo: Šárka Chovancová
Wednesday 26 August 2020, 8:00 – Text: Šárka Chovancová

A new LTQ XL linear ion trap mass spectrometer was acquired by the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the Faculty of Science. This modern device will allow researchers and students a more detailed structural analysis via molecular fragmentation. It will tell scientists what structural units they are composed of. The mass spectrometer, along with several other instruments, will be gradually installed in the department laboratories.

All devices will be acquired within the project Operational Programme Research, Development, Education: Improving the Study Environment. “We already have several spectrometers in the department, but this new unit-resolution LTQ XL device includes an ion trap analyzer, a special device that allows ionized molecules to be captured and worked with for some time,” described Petr Fryčák from the Department of Analytical Chemistry.

Depending on how the bonds between the atoms are arranged in the molecules studied, the scientists fragment them in a specific way. “Thanks to the way the molecules are fragmented in the ion trap, we can, for example, distinguish two molecules with different structures, even if they have the same elemental composition, and therefore the same mass. There are ten degrees of breakage that the new LTQ XL allows. We break the molecule into fragments, which we can further isolate and break. In this way, we literally split the molecule into pieces gradually,” said Fryčák. This method finds practical use in structural analysis. “We can measure the mass of fragments. In many cases, we can deduce from this which atoms are in a given fragment,” he added.

Together with the spectrometer, a liquid chromatograph was purchased, which allows scientists to examine one desired substance from a mixture of several substances. “The liquid chromatograph can divide the mixture so that only the one substance we want to focus on enters the device. Both new devices will be used to teach students who will perform analyses with their help, and gain practical experience on this type of instrumentation,” said Fryčák.

Molecular spectrometry instruments

In the field of spectral methods, the Department of Analytical Chemistry will be enriched by three more new instruments. “Two of them are basic equipment and will be used by Bachelor students in particular. One is an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, which will be the first portable instrument at the department. It will be possible to go into the field with it to measure e.g. the composition of soil, geological samples, steels or alloys,” described David Milde from the Department of Analytical Chemistry.

Another instrument is a molecular fluorescence spectrometer designed for the analysis of fluorescent substances. The most important and at the same time most expensive instrument for molecular spectrometry will be the new infrared spectrometer, which will be installed in the laboratory at the beginning of September. This device is a great help in identifying unknown organic matter. “It is basically the latest type of infrared spectrometer. This instrument is mainly used in the field of organic matter analysis. We anticipate its use not only for Bachelor students, but also for Master’s theses and doctoral dissertations,” said Milde.

An infrared spectrometer can also be used to determine the concentration of certain substances. “We want to embark on the analysis of microplastics in environmental samples. This device should help us identify the specific microplastic and the source from which it was released,” said Milde.

Capillary electrophoresis

Another addition to the Department of Analytical Chemistry will be a device enabling capillary electrophoresis. It will be designed for teaching students and scientific purposes. “It can divide substances based on their different velocities in an electric field. We use it to analyze optical isomers, most often medications. For example, the allergy medication Cetirizine can also be purchased as Levocetirizine or as a mixture of two isomers. The pharmaceutical industry therefore needs to have a reliable quality control tool to determine whether or not the drug in question contains the particular isomer. And we are actually developing methods that can be used in practice in this way,” said Jan Petr from the Department of Analytical Chemistry.

These devices will also be used at the Department of Analytical Chemistry by students in the new field of Chemistry –Analyst Specialist, introduced with the support of the OP RDE project Modern Teaching Methods for Comprehensive Education. It is a three-year, full-time Bachelor’s programme, which aims to prepare students for practical work in laboratories in a wide range of fields – from the pharmaceutical industry to healthcare, forensics and environmental control, to agricultural and food laboratories. “It is conceived as a professional field. The first students will be able to enroll in it in 2021/2022,” added Fryčák.