American Chemical Society
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Atmospheric Solids Analysis Probe Coupled to a Portable Mass Spectrometer for Rapid Identification of Bulk Drug Seizures

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-01-07, 16:42 authored by Bryan J. McCullough, Kirtan Patel, Ryan Francis, Peter Cain, David Douce, Kate Whyatt, Steve Bajic, Nicola Lumley, Chris Hopley
The emergence of ambient ionization techniques and their combination with smaller, cheaper mass spectrometers is beginning to make real the possibility of mass spectrometry measurements being made routinely outside of traditional laboratory settings. Here, we describe the development of an atmospheric solids analysis probe (ASAP) source for a commercially available miniaturized, single-quadrupole mass spectrometer and subsequent modification of the instrument to allow it to run as a deployable system; we further go on to describe the application of this instrument to the identification of the contents of drug seizures. For the drug seizure analysis, a small quantity of the material (powder, tablet, resin, etc.) was dissolved in ethanol and shaken to extract the analytes, the resulting solutions were then sampled by dipping a sealed glass capillary into the solution prior to analysis by ASAP–MS. Identification of the contents of the seizures was carried out using a NIST searching approach utilizing a bespoke spectral library containing 46 compounds representative of those most commonly encountered in UK forensic laboratories. In order to increase confidence in identification the library sample and subsequent analyses were carried out using a four-channel acquisition method; each channel in this method used a different cone voltage (15, 30, 50, and 70 V) inducing differing levels of in-source fragmentation in each channel; the match score across each channel was then used for identification. Using this developed method, a set of 50 real-life drug samples was analyzed with each of these being identified correctly using the library searching method.