Watch "Rapid Material Characterization Outside the Traditional Lab Environment" Presented by Exum

Full chemical characterization for most metals requires at least three different analytical techniques, specialized skills, and significant time and lab space to properly execute. Instead, the Massbox rapidly quantifies the metallic, trace, and light elements in a matter of minutes. Its user interface is as easy as a smartphone so it does not require chemistry expertise to prepare a sample, analyze its components, or create chemical maps.

Watch the webinar below to learn about the innovative Massbox, see its intuitive user interface, and explore the results of several case studies.


What is a mass spectrometer?

A mass spectrometer (MS) is an analytical instrument that measures the mass of ions. All mass spectrometers share three basic components:

  1. An ionization source to create charged particles
  2. A mass analyzer: Once you have charged ions, you need a way to separate them based on their mass-to-charge ratio (m/z)
  3. An ion detector: Once your ions are separated, you need a way to detect them. Typically the detector measures a change in current as ions pass by or collide with a plate.
How does the Massbox Mass Spectrometer work?

The Massbox’s ionization source is Laser Ablation Laser Ionization (LALI). After ionization, it sends ions through a series of ion optics and two quadrupoles. Then the Reflectron Time of Flight (TOF) separates ions in space based on how long it takes them to travel through a drift tube. Because the ions are accelerated with the same energy, their velocity depends on their masses only.

How does Laser Ablation (LA) work?

Perpendicular to the sample surface, the first laser ablates (or desorbs, in the organic case) the surface. This creates plasma and a neutral particle cloud.

How does Laser Ionization (LI) work?

Parallel to the sample surface, the second laser ionizes the neutral particles.

What is the benefit of combining LA and LI?

By using LA, the Massbox does not require complicated dissolution or digestion procedures to prepare solid samples for analysis. Compared to ions formed by the plasma, there is much less elemental fractionation in the neutral particle cloud. Using LI on the neutrals reduces the need for matrix-matched standards because these particles are more representative of the actual sample.

What is the benefit of creating ions under vacuum?

In many traditional MS instruments, the ablation occurs in a chamber at atmospheric pressure. Because mass analysis requires a vacuum, the ions must traverse through a series of cones and interfaces to get from atmospheric pressure to the vacuum. Losses occur at each stage of this process. In fact, approximately 1% of the initial ablated material ultimately reaches the detector. Contrary to traditional instruments, the LALI source is already at vacuum, resulting in nearly 100% ion transport efficiency.

What can the Massbox analyze?

Any solid sample, inorganic or organic.

How much does the Massbox cost to operate?

Operating costs are significantly lower than comparable methods for three reasons:

  1. No gas usage.
  2. Low electricity usage. While running, it uses less than 300 W.
  3. Low consumable costs. Its components do not require frequent replacement.

Because of the Massbox’s high sample throughput, its cost per analyzed sample is only a few cents.

How do I get my results from the Massbox?

The Massbox is equipped with a touch-screen computer on which all data are loaded and stored. Additionally, the user can connect the instrument to a cloud-based server to share data with the whole team.

What happens if the Massbox requires maintenance?

Exum is committed to exceeding our customers’ expectations by providing excellent support. All instruments contain an all-inclusive, 1-year warranty for instrument service and support. After this, we’ll continue providing software upgrades.

What are the Massbox’s limits of detection?
What kind of sample preparation is required?

For LALI, the only requirement is a flat sample with a solid surface.

  • For most samples, preparation involves simply cutting and/or polishing the sample until its surface is relatively flat (i.e., less than 0.5 mm surface height variability).
  • The most complex sample preparation methods involve grinding samples into a powder and pressing the powder into a pellet.

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