STTR Phase I: Novel Ionization Process for Materials Characterization using Mass Spectrometry

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

28 Tenby Chase Dr
Newark, DE 19711
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Research Institution

Wayne State University
5057 Woodward
Detroit, MI 48202


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project will be to provide a new and improved molecular characterization tool to be used with mass spectrometers for applications in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, forensic, clinical, environmental, food, and material sciences. Disruptive discoveries of new ionization technology for mass spectrometry in the 1980's had a major impact on the advancement of science and fueled new business opportunities. In this proposal, new ionization technology for characterization of material using mass spectrometry is being commercialized. The ionization process converts molecules, regardless of size or volatility, to gas-phase ions without the need for high voltage or lasers used in current methods. Only the vacuum inherent with all mass spectrometers, and an appropriate small molecule matrix compound, is needed for ionization. This technology is potentially transformative providing ease-of-use, reduced cost, and reliability with high potential for advancing science through improved measurement technologies. These attributes are expected to have the greatest impact in clinical laboratories, field portable mass spectrometers, and bio-threat detection. The high sensitivity, simplicity, ease-of-use, low-cost, high-throughput capabilities and unique applications suggest high commercial potential in the $4 billion per year mass spectrometer market. This STTR Phase I project proposes to deliver a prototype ion source for mass spectrometry based a novel ionization technology that transfers small or macromolecules from solution or solid phases to gas-phase ions using only heat and/or sub-atmospheric pressure. When combined with mass spectrometry, this technology provides a simple yet powerful means of characterizing materials directly from surfaces, such as biological tissue or polymeric films, in a manner that was previously not possible. Certain small molecule compounds when mixed with minute quantities of analyte and exposed to the vacuum inherent with any mass spectrometer spontaneously produces gas-phase ions of the analyte. The knowledge achieved in fundamental studies will be applied to design, construct, and assemble a first generation multifunctional ionization platform to reproducibly introduce samples and materials to the vacuum environment for manual or high throughput analyses. Means to rapidly characterize micron size surface defects/changes in biological materials (e.g., tissue, ansd microbial communities) will be developed without a laser. The products of this endeavor will provide new methods for materials characterization which, like other new ionization technology for mass spectrometry, will result in discoveries that advance knowledge in widely divergent areas of science.