Customs officials want to detect contraband. Doctors want to know how quickly a patient is metabolizing a therapeutic drug. And suppliers of organic products, from nutritional supplements to honey, want to know their raw materials are pure. Each case calls for mass spectrometry – a technique that identifies molecules based on their mass – but current instruments are bulky, expensive, and typically specialize in one class of chemicals, discouraging widespread use outside of a specialized lab setting.
Mass spectrometry is up to the challenge, but better technology is needed to make more flexible instruments. Read more.