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December 2009

First Book on FAIMS Published by PNNL Scientist

Field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry explored in CRC Press publication

Portrait of Alex Shvartsburg

Though it may never reach the New York Times' bestseller list, a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientist's book on an analytical technology for complex mixtures is making an impact on spectrometry research.

Differential Ion Mobility Spectrometry: Nonlinear Ion Transport and Fundamentals of FAIMS by PNNL chemist Dr. Alexandre Shvartsburg is the first book on field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry, or FAIMS. This relatively new technique is, in several important aspects, superior to conventional ion mobility spectrometry.

Ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) is used to separate, identify, and characterize ions based on their gas-phase transport in electric field. Conventional IMS has been used since the 1970s, originally to detect atmospheric vapor traces. Current applications extend from homeland security, national defense, and forensics to environmental monitoring and quality control in industry to analyses of biological materials, and medical diagnostics.

In conventional IMS, ions are separated by their absolute mobility. FAIMS, developed in Russia in the 1980s, sorts ions based on the difference between their mobility at high and low field intensities. This renders FAIMS separations quite independent of both conventional IMS and mass spectrometry and has made FAIMS/MS and FAIMS/IMS hybrids into powerful platforms for complex sample analyses.

Shvartsburg is an accomplished researcher and developer of ion mobility-based methods and instrumentation, including both conventional IMS and FAIMS. However, even having authored many scientific papers in the field, he found that writing this book deepened his understanding.

"My father liked to quote his senior colleague, (Nobel Laureate) Lev Landau, who said, ‘If you don't understand something, write a book about it.' This has proven to be true for me, at least," said Shvartsburg.

"When writing a book, especially the first-ever one in a field, you have to start from the foundations. Once you probe them in depth, you realize that a lot of key assumptions have never really been questioned, proved, or disproved. I needed to re-learn things from the first principles to understand FAIMS in a way that could be well communicated to a broader audience than that of a specialized journal. In that process, I've found out that some major concepts accepted in the IMS field were actually incorrect."

Shvartsburg's book, published by CRC Press and available from Amazon, relates the fundamentals of FAIMS and other nonlinear IMS methods to the physics of gas-phase ion transport. It supplies the foundation to understand the new technology of nonlinear IMS methods.

Reference: Shvartsburg AA. 2009. Differential Ion Mobility Spectrometry: Nonlinear Ion Transport and Fundamentals of FAIMS. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.

Background Highlight: Researchers Develop, Improve and Enhance Technologies for Rapid Analysis of Complex Samples

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