Dr. Jacob Shelley: "Developing, characterizing and improving plasma-based sources for ADI-MS analyses"

The ultimate goal of analytical chemistry is to provide what G.E.F. Lundell described as, "the chemical analysis of things as they are."  In other words, the ideal analytical method would be one that quickly (i.e. in real-time) provides a comprehensive assessment of sample constituents in such a way that is non- or minimally destructive, while the sample is interrogated in its native environment (i.e. in situ).  By combining specially designed ionization sources with the sensitivity and selectivity of mass spectrometry, samples can be analyzed in the open atmosphere and without the need for any sample preparation or pretreatment; these types of analyses have led to a field that has been called ambient desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (ADI-MS).

In general, our group is interested in the developing, characterizing and improving plasma-based sources for ADI-MS analyses.  Specifically, we aim to create a research program in analytical chemistry based around the development and fundamental characterization of instrumentation that provides rapid and in-depth information of samples in situ.  Our group is initially focusing on expanding the capabilities of ambient mass spectrometry through added dimensionality of analysis without compromising the speed of the analysis.  The goal is to develop an ionization source, which operates at atmospheric pressure that can provide molecular, structural, and atomic information of species present on a sample surface.

While the basis of the research is focused around novel tools for mass spectrometry, we also use and develop other analytical methods, including optical spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and electron paramagnetic resonance, for the characterization of plasma sources.  The ultimate goal is to devise analytical systems that enable fast and selective quantitative analyses of samples from their native environments.

Overall, this research addresses a major focus of modern analytical chemistry - rapid, in situ detection of relevant compounds without the need for sample modification or a priori information of sample constituents.  Such methods of analysis are needed in a wide range of areas including homeland security, drug development and production, chemical synthesis, and environmental analyses.