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PhotoSynapt – combining ion mobility, mass spectrometry and optical spectroscopy

Overcoming the limitations of standard MS instrumentation in the analysis of molecules has been the focus of our efforts over the past decade. By working together closely with leading academic groups, we learnt how to get the best out of the mass spectrometer. The PhotoSynapt is one of the outcomes of these fruitful collaborations combining ion mobility mass spectrometry (IM-MS) with optical spectroscopy and/or photon based fragmentation methods. The PhotoSynapt is a comprehensive research platform for 

  • conformational studies
  • isomer characterization
  • oligomerisation studies, e.g. in Alzheimer’s disease research
  • optical spectroscopy in the gas phase

Turning the Synapt into a spectroscopy-MS platform

Mass spectrometry is a great and highly accurate technique to determine molecular masses down to sub-ppm accuracy. However, sometimes mass alone is not sufficient. In many applications in analytical characterization issues arise from different isomeric or spatial conformations. Think about sugars or many natural compounds such as plant products. Let’s assume a very simple example of the three isomeric dihydroxybenzenes Catechol (1,2), Resorcine (1,3) and Hydroquinone (1,4). Same molecular mass. 

Catechol structure
Catechol IR spectrum
Resorcine structure
Resorcine IR spectrum
Hydroquinone structure
Hydroquinione IR spectrum

While the mass is identical, the infrared spectra are clearly not. Optical spectroscopy allows to distinguish between isomeric compounds, even if they have similar chromatographic or ion mobility behaviour. The optical spectroscopy adds an entire new dimension to the characterization.

Making it work better

To enable optical spectroscopy, at MS Vision we developed the PhotoSynapt in collaboration with the group of Anouk Rijs at VU Amsterdam

A Waters Synapt was cut into two pieces separating between TWAVE-IMS and orthogonal acceleration. An additional vacuum chamber was introduced which holds two ion traps, the first for accumulation of ions, the second for the optical spectroscopy. By using a time slicing technique enabled by the ion traps, it is possible to accumulate ions with a specific travelling time in the TWAVE and to enrich species with specific conformations or ion mobility behaviour:


The laser access of the system allows any laser to be used, which gives utmost flexibility on the experimental setup.

PhotoSynapt setup

The next generation of the PhotoSynapt is already in the making. In this new version, we will further extend capabilities by cryogenic ion traps from IsoSpec Analytics in Switzerland. These cryotraps allow the spectroscopic analysis or ultracold ions with attached nitrogen molecules. Upon IR-induced vibration the nitrogen is lost which results in a mass shift allowing for a highly sensitive spectroscopic analysis within LC peaks. 


Upgrade or full instrument?

Whether you want to have your own Synapt upgraded or need a complete instrument, MS Vision has the solution. We offer full support by our highly skilled engineers so you can concentrate on running your samples.

The PhotoSynapt can be upgraded on your Waters Synapt G2 or G2-S system (as a factory only upgrade though due to the complex modification) or we can provide completely modified systems. The PhotoSynapt upgrade is also compatible with the NativeSynapt upgrade for high mass and native mass spectrometry to give you ultimate flexibility.

The system will be completely refurbished and is better than new! 

A new PC to drive the entire system and to help you with your analysis using the complete suite of MassLynx software Waters will be supplied with the instrument. The system will be installed in your laboratory and will meet specifications before it will be transferred to you.

For complete systems the warranty is 12 months on the entire system, not only on the upgrade parts! Following the warranty, service contracts from a Bronze type, PM only to full cover Platinum type are available. 

Contact us to discuss your demands and we will be happy to send you a detailed quotation