Scientist combine robotics and mass spectrometry to analyse 3D objects for pharma applications

Scientists have reported that by combining a robotic arm and mass spectrometry, they can analyse the surface of 3-D objects with irregular shapes, which has the potential to lead to new branches of forensics and pharmaceutics.

In recent years, mass spectrometry (MS) has made its way outside the laboratory for use in forensics and drug screening. However current MS techniques do not have the capability to examine large, bulky, curved objects without a lot of human intervention. Previously, Facundo M. Fernández and colleagues performed a proof-of-concept study to show that a 3-D infrared camera could direct a robotic arm to collect samples for plasma ionisation MS analysis, but only certain types of molecules could be studied with the method.

In the current work, the team wanted to expand on this idea of direct surface sampling of irregularly shaped 3-D objects.

The researchers developed a new method called robotic surface analysis MS (RoSA-MS). They attached a custom-built laser scanner to a force-sensing robotic arm. The laser scanner creates a digital map of the sample’s surface, which directed a spring-loaded sampling probe (also attached to the arm) to certain locations. The probe briefly contacted the surfaces of objects and collected trace amounts of the material. After collecting the sample, the arm placed the probe into an electrospray ionisation mass spectrometer that can analyse a wide range of samples.

Source: European Pharmaceutical Review

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