ACHEMA Newsroom

Variolytics: Upgrade for mass spectrometry

A realtime mass spectrometre developed by Fraunhofer scientists allows for the first time the parallel analysis of up to 30 ingredients in the gaseous and liquid phase - even in situ. The sensitive measurement system is suited for the automated monitoring and control of chemical reactions and biotechnological processes. In addition it can be used for decentralized environmental analysis.

Mass spectrometry: High performance with limits

Monitoring of procudtion processes is inconceivable without the automated detection of products and byproducts directly in the process. Mass spectromety is a fast and selective method for the highly sensitive and selective analysis of compounds in technical, chemical and biotechnological applications on an extremely large range. Apart from the identification of compounds it is also possible to analyze ion streams quantitatively. Via an integrated data analysis, the concentration of the substance to be monitored can be transmitted and changes in concentration for example in chemical or biochemical reactions can be traced.

So far, process mass spectrometry was restricted to compounds in the gaseous phase. Now scientists from the Fraunhofer-Instituts für Chemische Technologie ICT, Pfinztal, and Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB, Stuttgart, have developed a mass spectrometer that can monitor both gases and liquids in real time.

Realtime mass spectrometry off the shelf

For more than 20 years, at Fraunhofer ICT realtime mass spectrometers have been used in special labs to fulfil customer requests from the chemcial industry, water industry and reseach. Since 2012 requests from the waste water and bioprocessing industry have also been met at the labs of the  Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB.

However, due to the lack of automation technology and remote maintenance and as there was no serial product, the major share of the market could not be supplied. In many cases, users were unable to operate the mass spectrometer.  

The intended spin-off takes care of these shortcomings. All envisioned versions of the foySPEC are based on the same set-up. That simplyfies maintenance significantly. Thus, clients can be offered a real-time mass spectrometer for gases and liquids that matches functionality and price of conventional mass spectrometers. Automated routines and the possibility of remote maintenance, users don't need to be experts in mass spectrometry. Measurement quality and functionality of the mass spectormeter can be ensured by Variolytics' employees via a maintenance agreement, offering the customer additional reliability.

Access to new markets

For each aera of application, customers can request a measurement protocol which is saved to the foxySPEC. Thus, access to new markets is made much easier. In order to establish a measurement protocol the infrastructure of Fraunhofer ICT for water and chemistry and of Fraunhofer UGB for biotechnology and waste water can be used. Customer specific membrane inlets can be developed, produced and testet. The customer is spared from the implementation and adjustment of the device, saving resources.

The company which will be founded in Summer 2018 aims to produce, market and maintain mass spectrometers for the simultaneous measurement in the gas and liquid phase. Self-sufficient measurement units will be built, but customized OEM-versions for various customer groups will also be offered.

The foundation of the innovation was laid in the 1980ies at the Fraunhofer ICT. There a mass spectrometric appliance with a membrane inlet for liquids has been developed. This appliance was patented and used for water analysis, for the development of fuel cells and is still use in battery research at Fraunhofer ICT.

The spin-off is supported by Fraunhofer Venture. The company will most probably be located near the campus of the Fraunhofer-Institutszentrum Stuttgart. The project has been shortlisted for the ACHEMA 2015 Innovation Award and won the Science4Life competition.