This article describes the development of fieldable mass spectrometry systems, with emphasis on commercially available systems that have been deployed for on-site analysis of seized drugs, chemical warfare agents, explosives, and other analytes of interest to the forensic and security communities.
Mass spectrometry is commonly used in forensic chemistry laboratories for sensitive, definitive analysis. There have been significant efforts to bring mass spectrometry analysis on-site through the development of ruggedized, fieldable instruments. Testing samples in the field is of particular interest in forensic science, homeland security, and defense applications. In forensic chemistry, testing seized drugs in the field can significantly improve efficiencies in the processing of related criminal cases. The screening of passengers and luggage at transportation hubs is a critical need for homeland security for which mass spectrometry is well suited to provide definitive answers with low false positive rates. Mass spectrometry can yield reliable data for military personnel testing sites for potential chemical weapons release. To meet the needs of the forensic and security communities, fieldable mass spectrometers based on membrane inlet systems and hybrid gas chromatography systems have been developed and commercialized. More recently developed ambient ionization mass spectrometry methods can eliminate the time, equipment, and expertise associated with sample preparation, and so are especially appealing for on-site analysis. (publisher abstract modified)