Principal Investigator: Dr. Steven J. Smith

Environmental Sampling with Rotating Field Mass Spectrometer (RFMS)

We are entering an exciting era where mass spectrometers are being taken out into the field, flown high into the stratosphere and sent deep in to the ocean, for unprecedented detection of environmental air and water contamination. These methods allow for real time detection of hazardous water or air containments, (for example oil leaks) which would facilitate rapid cleanup measures.  The presentation will survey research conducted by  utilizing battery detection schemes deployed on aircraft and watercraft platforms.  Smith will also detail his own Rotating Field Mass Spectrometer (RFMS). Several collaborations with the Univ. of Hawaii and Navy were inaugurated using the RFMS in water sampling and air sampling.  These include:

  1. “Navy Phase II Autonomous Underwater Sensing of Weapons of Mass Destruction.” This was for developing miniature low power systems for chemical and biological warfare agents in seawater surface air immediate. The plan was for deployment inside the Navy’s REMUS robot submarine.
  2. “AQUASENSE,” a JPL Task to implement a low-power, high sensitivity, portable RFMS.  It is designed for in situ analysis of lake water and seawater to full ocean depth pressures. It has also been used to detect low-level residual atmospheric gas components.
  3. High acceleration (g) shock field tests were performed in a collaboration between JPL and Sandia National Laboratory. The RFMS survived a massive 1000g impact when launched inside a high-speed canon shell, yet it continued to operate well afterwards. A deep ocean deployment of the RFMS was also made aboard the University of Hawaii research ship, the R/V Kilo Moana.

Steven Smith Sampling WaterThe current IWU project focuses on environmental contaminant detection.  Smith “resurrected” his JPL project in 2007, shortly before he left JPL to join IWU. The portable assembly includes two of his own RFMS, one with an electro-hydrodynamic (EHD) ionizer for liquid sampling and the second configured with a gas ionizer inlet.   He has repackaging the RFMS to fit inside a roll-around case, (see figure) small enough to be regarded as checked baggage at airports. Smith has recently compared saline and bio-diesel samples analyzed with his RFMS and compared with GCMS system here at IWU. The reference standard used is calibrated FAME, (Fatty Acid Methyl Esters) samples. Research will investigate how EHD ionize these organics in solution yet show minimum ionization fragmentation.

From the filing of U.S. patents to performing ocean deployments Smith has always wanted to perfect the method of routine environmental monitoring. In locations such as Marion, IN, there are ground water contaminates from agricultural pesticides.  Marion was home to a large RCA/Thompson TV manufacturing concern.  Trace amounts of industrial metals such as cadmium and mercury may be present.  The plans are to use students to perform calibrations. It is thrilling to show students techniques that could also be used in environmental protection efforts. This may lead to air sampling platforms mounted on a large kite or an unmanned “drone.”

Mass Spec References

Griffiths, Timothy; Hart, Emily; Stan, Patricia and Kind, Daniel., “Analysis of Iron and Calcium in a Geothermal System Outflow Stream.” Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 2013: 35-39. Print.
McMurtry, G. M. and S. J. Smith, Mass SURFER: a low-power underwater mass spectrometer for monitoring dissolved gas, solutes and large organic compounds, Proceed. Oceans 2001, Marine Tech. Soc. And IEEE, Honolulu, 259-263.

Smith, S. J. and A. Chutjian, “Mass and velocity analyzer with rotating electric fields”, NASA Tech. Briefs, February, 1998.

3. Mass Surfer-Underwater Autonomous Sampling” presentation to United States Naval Surface Warfare Center, Newport, RI, June 28-29,2004.

9. “Mass SURFER Underwater Mass Spectrometer System Development”, Gary M. McMurtry and Steven J. Smith,  The 4th Harsh-Environment Mass Spectrometry Workshop Presented by the Center for Ocean Technology College of Marine Science /University of South Florida, October 7-10 2003, St. Petersburg Beach, Florida.

10. “Mass SURFER- Field Mass Spectrometer System for Deep Ocean and Planetary Lander Applications” Gary McMurtry, Steven J. Smith, The 3rd Harsh-Environment Mass Spectrometry Workshop, Presented by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA, March 25-28, 2002, Pasadena, California.

11. “Development of an Underwater Mass Spectrometer for Dissolved Gasses, Solutes and Large Organic Compounds”, Gary M. McMurtry, Steven J. Smith, 2nd Workshop On Harsh-Environment Mass Spectrometry, March 18-21 2001, St. Petersburg Fl.