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Journal of Automatic Chemistry
Volume 20 (1998), Issue 1, Pages 1-7

Application of hand-held mobility spectrometers as sensors in manufacturing industries

School of Aquatic Science and Natural Resources Management, Deakin University, PO Box 423, Warrnambol, Victoria 3280, Australia

Copyright © 1998 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Ion mobility spectrometers (IMS) are small, lightweight, extremely robust devices with low power requirements, no moving parts, no absolute requirement for gases or vacuums, that can be operated at ambient temperatures and pressures, and yet are capable of measuring vapour phase concentrations of organic chemicals at very low levels (sub-μg/l). IMS are capable of analysing complex mixtures and producing a simple spectral output. Volatile components produce measurable negative and positive product ions in the spectrometer through chemical ionization. The spectra produced are essentially the vapour phase fingerprints of the target molecules/mixture. Quantitative data can be obtained provided instrument response is within the linear dynamic range of these instruments, but most practical applications of IMS have used the technology in a qualitative manner in situations which require just an above/below threshold or positive/negative response.

In the manufacturing industry there are many examples where the aroma/odour of raw materials has safety or product quality implications. IMS was not developed to replace traditional methods of analysis, e.g. GC/MS or sensory panels, but rather to provide a rapid, qualitative response complementary to more established methods. This paper reports on the use of a hand-held ion mobility spectrometer to characterize the vapours produced by volatile organic compounds,fresh herbs and retail spice mixtures at ambient temperature and pressure. The results show that by monitoring in both ion acquisition modes, ion mobility spectrometers are capable of discriminating between a wide range of products.