About NMSF

The Institute of Mass Spectrometry is home to the EPSRC UK National Mass Spectrometry Facility (NMSF), formerly known as the EPSRC National Mass Spectrometry Service Centre (NMSSC) until April 2013. The NMSF offers comprehensive mass spectrometry service for university research groups throughout the UK.

Swansea University has long been established as a centre of excellence for mass spectrometry, with the siting of the Royal Society Research Unit in the 1970s followed by the Mass Spectrometry Research Unit and then the EPSRC National Mass Spectrometry Centre in the 1980s.This Facility is open to all university research groups in the UK, with priority given to EPSRC-funded research and limited commercial service.


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Waters Xevo G2-S

High-resolution accurate-mass ESI, APCI, EScI, ASAP and APGC

Resolving Power: >32,500 FWHM (Resolution Mode) or >22,500 FWHM (Sensitivity Mode)
Mass Range: TOF m/z 20–100,000 or quadrupole 20–16,000
Mass Accuracy: 1ppm (using suitable lock mass)

Commercial Supplier: Waters

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Bruker ultrafleXtreme

Smartbeam-II™ laser enables ultra-high data acquisition speed in both MS and MS/MS

Mass Range Resolution: up to 40,000
Mass Accuracy: 5 ppm
LASER: 2kHz with 10μm focus diameter

Commercial Supplier: Bruker

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Waters GCT Premier

Benchtop orthogonal acceleration time-of-flight (oa-TOF) mass spectrometer.

Resolution: 7000 FWHM
Mass Accuracy: Sub-5 ppm RMS (with internal lock mass correction)
Sample Rate: 25,000 times per second
Source and Probe options: EI, CI, DCI, FI, FD and DIP.

Commercial Supplier: Waters

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Finnigan MAT 95 XP

High resolution double focussing (BE) mass spectrometer EI, CI, LSIMS, ESI and APCI capability
Mass Range: m/z 3,500 at full accelerating voltage;
Maximum Resolution: 60,000.

Commercial supplier: Finnigan MAT
(a subsidiary of Thermo Scientific Scientific)

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Voyager DE-STR

Installed in 2002, MALDI-TOF with Linear and Reflectron analysers

Resolution: 20,000
Original Nitrogen laser (λ = 337nm) replaced in June 2012 with an Nd:YAG laser (λ = 355nm) by Elforlight

Commercial supplier: Applied Biosystems

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Thermo Scientific DSQ-II

low resolution GC-MS instrument installed in 2008;

EI, CI+, CI- capability;
mass range m/z 1050.

Coupled to a Trace GC Ultra Gas Chromatograph with Tri-plus auto-sampler.

Commercial supplier: Thermo Scientific

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Thermo Scientific
LTQ Orbitrap XL

High resolution instrument giving accurate mass measurement over the full mass range in electropray

Resolution: up to 100,000 (FWHM)
Mass Range: m/z 50–2000 or m/z 200–4000
Mass Accuracy: <3 ppm RMS with external calibration; <2 ppm RMS with internal calibration.

Commercial supplier: Thermo Scientific

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Advion TriVersa NanoMate

Advion TriVersa NanoMate chip-based nanoelectrospray infusion system

Commercial supplier: Advion

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HTX Imaging TM-Sprayer

The TM-Sprayer™ Tissue MALDI Sample Preparation System is designed to provide the highest quality matrix deposition on the two-dimensional biological samples.

Commercial Supplier: HTX Imaging


PRODUCTION OF HIGH QUALITY MASS SPECTRA using the following ionisation techniques in both polarities:

EI and CI analyses are generally performed on the DSQ-Trace GC-MS quadrupole instrument or MAT95 magnetic sector. The DSQ-Trace GC-MS is used for volatile samples and mixtures, and the MAT95 is used for less volatile compounds, for metal-containing species, and when there are special sample requirements, e.g. air sensitive or insoluble samples.

DSQ-Trace conditions:

EI: Source temperature 200°C; electron energy 70eV; mass range m/z 33-650 unless higher is requested.
CI: vary with application - available on request; mass range m/z 33-650 unless higher is requested.

MAT95 conditions:
Mass resolution is set to at least 400 greater than the maximum mass (10% valley definition);
Solids probe or desorption probe may be used, with manually controlled heating rates.

EI: source temperature 120°C to 200°C; electron energy 70eV; mass range as required by analyte;
CI+ or CI-: source temperature 120°C to 160°C; mass range as required by analyte; ammonia or methane reagent gas.

Accurate mass Electron Ionisation (EI) and Chemical Ionisation (CI) measurements, in positive ionisation mode, are obtained on the MAT95 by "peak matching", with mass resolution between 8000 and 10 000 (10% valley definition). For EI, Heptacosa (perfluorotributylamine) is the usual reference compound for accurate mass measurement, and for CI, PEG (polyethyleneglycol) is usually used. If a different reference compound is used, it will be specified in an attachment to the result. Precision of the method is better than 5ppm and nearly always within 3ppm. Usual mass range is 50 to 1000Da but higher is possible; measurements of molecular masses over 1000Da are usually discouraged as being a meaningless exercise.

EI electron energy 70eV; either the water-cooled or desorption probe is used, as required; source temperature depends on sample.
CI source temperature ca. 140°C and electron energy 50eV; either the water-cooled or desorption probe is used, as required.

"FAB" (actually LSIMS) analyses, in positive or negative ionisation mode, up to mass ca. 3000 Daltons, are performed on the MAT95.
Caesium ion bombardment is used at 18-22 kV energy on to the sample dissolved in a matrix liquid, usually 3-nitrobenzyl alcohol (NOBA). Resolution is sample dependant, and at least 400 greater than the maximum mass (10% valley definition). FAB is undesirable for compounds of molecular weight less than 250Da, as the matrix ions dominate this region.

Note re "FAB" (LSIMS): this service continues to be offered but is being replaced by other ionisation modes as far as possible.

Accurate mass "FAB" (LSIMS) is performed on the MAT95 in positive and negative ionisation mode. Measurements are performed by "peak matching" at resolution 8000 (10% valley definition). Precision of the method is better than 5ppm. Mass range m/z 150 to 1400, although measurements of molecular masses over 1000Da are usually discouraged as being a meaningless exercise. Glycerol/CsI is the usual reference compound. If a different reference compound is used, it will be specified in an attachment to the result.

ESI analyses are generally performed on the Orbitrap XL using nanoelectrospray. Printouts will clearly state on the top whether nanoelectrospray or pneumatically-assisted electrospray has been used (see both methods below). The spectra achieved by both methods are similar; only the inlet and rate of sample consumption differ. For both spray rates, different source ("cone") voltages may be used to either promote molecular fragmentation ("harder" ionisation) or to minimise it and promote multiple charging ("softer" ionisation). Spectra are labelled appropriately when different source voltages give different results. Electrospray data acquired on the Orbtirap to m/z 2000 are generally also "accurate mass measurements" (5 ppm guaranteed; usually better than 3ppm).

Nanospray: analyses are performed on the Orbitrap XL in positive or negative ionisation mode (one polarity per analysis). The Advion NanoMate inlet is used with a 96-well plate, corresponding transfer tips and 400-nozzle spray-chip. (With this inlet, each sample uses its own well, sample tip and nozzle, effectively eliminating the "memory" problem that is common with standard electrospray.) Solvents and additives used are listed on the results.
Orbitrap XL conditions: see SOP document.

Electrospray: analyses are performed on the Orbitrap XL in positive or negative ionisation mode. Samples are loop injected into or infused in a stream of water / methanol (1:1 at 50┬ÁL/min.) using the customer-specified solvent for dissolution. Nebulisation is pneumatically assisted by a flow of nitrogen through a sheath around the capillary, a process sometimes referred to as "Ion spray". See Orbitrap SOP for more information on this instrument.
Orbitrap XL conditions: see SOP document.

ESI sample requirements (wide range of analytes): especially suitable for polar or thermo-labile samples; ESI specialities are salts, non-covalently bound species, multiply charged complexes and very high MW (bio)molecules that will multiply charge. (In this laboratory, MALDI rather than ESI is generally used for high mass species.)

Accurate mass Electrospray (ESI) is the preferred laboratory method and is attempted for all compounds submitted for accurate mass. Other techniques will only be used if ESI fails. If both a full-scan characterisation and accurate mass are required, both are done simultaneously on the Orbitrap XL. If only a single ion accurate mass measurement is required, it may be performed on the Orbitrap XL or on the Xevo G2S in positive or negative ionisation.

Orbitrap XL conditions: see SOP document. Standard operation uses nanoelectrospray on the Advion TriVersa NanoMate.

APCI in this laboratory is performed on the Orbitrap XL and on the Xevo G2S using the Atmospheric Solids Analysis Probe (ASAP) to insert samples into the APCI source. (Traditional flow injection APCI is also available but is rarely required). Samples are deposited onto a glass capillary as a solid or in solution. Additives such as ammonium acetate may also be used on the probe or in the ion source, to assist ionisation.

Atmospheric Solids Analysis Probe (ASAP) conditions:
Source Temp.: sample dependent. If the vapourizing temperature is unknown, the sample is introduced at ambient temperature (circa 40ºC) then the temperature is increased until the sample vaporizes.
Corona Discharge Current: 4µA.

Accurate Mass APCI is also carried out using ASAP under the above conditions. For instrument calibration, please see Orbitrap SOP document (instrument is calibrated using ESI). Accurate mass is obtained on all ions in the spectrum simultaneously.
APCI by direct infusion is available upon request.

MALDI is performed on Applied BioSystems Voyager DE-STR and Bruker ultrafleXtreme mass spectrometers. A typical procedure involves mixing solutions of sample and matrix, and pipetting 0.5-1 microlitre onto the target well of a sample plate. Inorganic salts are sometimes added to promote ionization. The sample spot is dried, allowing co-crystallisation of the mixture, then irradiated with a pulsed N2 laser ( 337nm, f = 3 or 20Hz). Solvent-free preparations can also be used. The matrix is ablated from the plate while the sample is simultaneously desorbed and ionised, then accelerated into a flight tube (typically 20kV). The instrument may be run in any combination of positive or negative and linear or reflector modes. Specific details regarding conditions will accompany results.

MALDI Matrices
Using the service - more information about services available for different analytes (including polymer details).
Biochemicals - recommended sample clean-up procedures.

GC-MS is performed on the Waters GCT Premier and the Thermo Scientific Trace-DSQ-II , using EI or CI, with ammonia (or methane), in either polarity. Accurate mass GC-MS can also be performed using the GCT Premier. The stationary phase of preference is DB5 (95% methyl and 5% phenyl). GC conditions depend on those specified in the analysis request. Analysis of liquid or gas samples may be done. (More complex applications are available on a collaborative basis, with facility available for thermal desorption, SPME, headspace, and various other options, most with automation if high throughput is required.)

GC conditions: DSQ: PTV injector, column: WCOT TR5MS 25m x 0.25mm with 0.25μm film.
MS conditions: EI: Source temperature 200°C; electron energy 70eV; mass range m/z 33-650 unless higher is requested.
MS conditions: CI: vary with application - available on request; mass range m/z 33-650 unless higher is requested.

LC-MS may be performed on the Orbitrap only by special arrangement with the Facility, on a collaborative basis. Please contact the Facility Manager for details.

MS/MS may be performed by special arrangement with the Centre, usually on a collaborative basis. Please contact the Facility Manager for details. Different methods of tandem operation are available, in various ionisation modes:

Collision induced dissociation (CID), HCD (high energy CID) or PQD (pulsed-Q dissociation) on Orbitrap XL, with low resolution selection of precursor ion and accurate mass of fragment ions (ESI, nESI or APCI)

ACCURATE MASS MEASUREMENT of selected ions with <5ppm precision using high resolution with any of the above ionisation techniques.

SEPARATION TECHNIQUES with mass spectrometry, and other services available by special arrangement:

  • Coupled capillary gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to separate and identify the components of volatile mixtures Thermal desorption, cold trapping injection and a variety of other GC-MS methods with EI or CI.
  • Coupled high performance liquid chromatography - mass spectrometry (LC-MS) for the analysis of mixtures.
  • TANDEM MASS SPECTROMETRY (MS-MS) using a range of techniques.

Understanding your data - examples of data output with explanatory labels

Meet the Team

Steven Kelly Interim Director of the EPSRC UK National Mass Spectrometry Facility, since October 2016.

Professor Steven Kelly was born in Cardiff and studied in the newly founded Genetics Department in Swansea until 1983 undertaking his BSc and a PhD involving yeast genetics. He learned yeast genetic engineering with Paul Nurse and gained a Lectureship in Sheffield University Krebs Institute, moving to a Chair at Aberystwyth in 1997 where he was lead for molecular biology and Director of the Wolfson Laboratory of Cytochrome P450 Biodiversity. In 2004 he moved to Swansea University to act as Chair of Research during the period of early establishment of the Swansea University Medical School and the building of the Institute of Life Science and led the Biomedical Sciences submission in RAE 2008 to a 2.65 score.

Swansea University webpage

ChristopherGraduated in 1998 with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Wales Swansea. In 2003 completed a Ph.D. from the University of Wales Swansea, in the Mass Spectrometry Research Unit, under the supervision of Professor Gareth Brenton. Spent 12 months working on a CEFIC funded project in the Biomolecular Analysis Mass Spectrometry Facility as a PDRA before joining the EPSRC NMSSC in October 2005 as an Experimental Officer. Became a Research Officer in 2007, Acting Service Manager in 2011, and Service/Facility Manager in 2012.

MarkGraduated in 1997 with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemistry with Industrial Chemistry from the University of Liverpool, which included a year spent at the Chemical Services laboratory at BNFL Springfields site. Twelve months were then spent in Analytical Services at Eli Lilly in Speke. Completed Ph.D. in 2002, entitled “Analysis of Acrylic Polymers by MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry“ from the IRC in Polymer Science and Technology at the University of Durham. The project was supervised by Prof. Randal Richards, in collaboration with Dr Tony Jackson at ICI Technology. Joined the NMSSC in 2002 as a Research Officer to develop the MALDI-TOF service.

AnnGraduated from University of Wales, Swansea with BSc (HONS) in Chemistry and Analytical Science in 1990; PhD in “Mass spectrometric, chromatographic and electrophoretic methods for the characterization of biomolecules“ with Prof. D.E.Games, Mass Spectrometry Research Unit, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Wales, Swansea 1990-1994. PDRA in Mass Spectrometry Facility in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, University of Washington, Seattle USA 1994 ‐ 1996. PDRA in Oxford Glycobiology Institute, University of Oxford 1996 ‐ 1998. Joined the EPSRC NMSSC as a PDRA in May 1998. Became a part-time Experimental Officer in May 2002 (Monday-Thursday).

GarethGraduated from Southampton University in 1978 with a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Chemistry. Began working at Swansea University in 1979 as a technician in the NMR section. Research technician in organic chemistry from 1990 to 2000 working on reaction kinetics and carbohydrate chemistry. Graduated in 1991 with M.Phil. from Swansea University on the chiral integrity of synthetic peptides. Ran the Chemistry Department Mass Spectrometry service in 1996-1997. Joined the NMSSC in 1998 as a technician and became Experimental Officer in 2002. Currently working part time (Tuesday-Thursday).

Rhodri Graduated from University of Wales Swansea with a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Chemical Analytical & Forensic Science in 2006. Joined the NMSF in December 2014 as a Mass Spectrometry Analyst & Customer Liaison Assistant. Became Experimental Officer in 2017. He previously spent time working in local government finance, and since 2012 has been running Cilgwenyn Bee Farm a micro-enterprise.

Jessica Bexon Graduated in 2011 with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Forensic and Analytical Science from Sheffield Hallam University, which included a year spent at GlaxoSmithKline at the research and development site in Ware. Joined the NMSF as a Technician Analyst, 2012-2014. Worked for Innoture Ltd as a research and development project technician, 2014-2016, specialising in the development and manufacture of microneedles with research into how they enhance transdermal drug delivery. Re-joined the NMSF in October 2016 as an Experimental Officer.

MariaJoined at the end of 2007 as a Secretarial Assistant, and became Office Administrator in 2016. Currently working part time (Monday to Thursday).

Helen Graduated in 2012 with a B.Sc(Hons) in Chemistry from Cardiff University, which included a year in industry spent at Reckitt Benckiser as an analytical chemist. Joined the NMSF in August 2016 as a Mass Spectrometry Trainee.