Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy

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    Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (LC-MS)

    Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (LC-MS) is an analytical technique that allows separation, identification, and quantification of the sample constituents. It is the preferred separation technique for larger and non-volatile molecules like proteins and peptides. It’s also ideal for separation of isomers (same mass) which cannot be differentiated in a mass spectrometer. With its high sensitivity, high detection selectivity and multicomponent analysis capabilities, LC-MS is used for qualitative and quantitative analysis of trace elements, contaminants, additives etc in a wide range of industries from drug delivery, clinical research, biopharmaceuticals to textiles and environmental sciences.

    In LC, a sample is injected and adsorbed on the stationary phase (porous medium) as the liquid mobile phase passes through the column to separate the compounds. Compounds are separated based on their weight and affinity towards the stationary and mobile phases. The separated analytes then pass through a mass detector that differentiates compounds by their mass-to-charge ratio (m/z). MS provides information about the identity, quantity, molecular weight, and purity of a sample.

      Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (LC-MS) Common Uses

      • Analysis and quantification of drugs and metabolites contained in biological samples (pharmacokinetic studies)
      • Used in drug development methods such as in vivo drug screening, peptide, and glycoprotein mapping, etc.
      • Biochemical screening for genetic disorders such as tyrosinemia type 1, urine diseases, and other clinical research and testing.
      • Reliable measurements in the areas of steroid biochemistry
      • Analysis of natural products and the profiling of secondary metabolites in plants
      • Analysis of hydrocarbons and contaminants in diesel engine exhausts
      • Determination of chemical contaminants (such as aflatoxins) in complex food matrices
      • Identification and characterization of reaction intermediates and by-products
      • Qualitative and quantitative analysis of polymer extractable/leachable such as plasticizers, stabilizers, antioxidants, etc.


      • Fast LC analysis times and reduced sample preparation that allows high throughput sample analysis
      • Able to perform simultaneous multianalyte analysis within a single run and minimal incremental cost
      • Excellent reproducibility of the results with the use of isotopically labeled internal standards (MS/MS)
      • Polarity switching for both positive and negative ions in a single analysis
      • High sensitivity – able to detect some compounds in the parts-per-billion (ppm) and -trillion (ppt) ranges (MS/MS)


      • LC systems are expensive to maintain and need extensive training to operate when compared to GC
      • Stringent vacuum requirement
      • Mass spectrometers that couple to LC systems are expensive
      • The environmental conditions in the laboratory need to be well controlled to ensure system stability
      • The ionization techniques compatible with LC-MS produce very little fragmentation, which is useful for determining its molecular weight but does not provide any structural information of the molecules
      • Compounds must be soluble in common solvents such as water, alcohols, and acetonitrile
      • Compounds must be ionizable (usually polar)
      • Matrix effects (or ion suppression) occur because some components of the sample disturb the ionization mechanism, especially biological samples


      • Medical Science
      • Pharmaceutical
      • Food Analysis
      • Cosmetics
      • Agrochemical
      • Environmental Analysis
      • Forensic Science
      • Petrochemistry

      Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (LC-MS) Laboratories

      • EAG Laboratories, Inc.
      • ATS Applied Technical Servicess, Inc.
      • Intertek
      • Jordi Labs
      • Alera Labs, LLC
      • Q2 Lab Solutions

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        FAQ on Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy (LC-MS)

        Our network of material testing labs provides identification, quantitation, and mass analysis of materials using  liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS).

        Trace element and chemical analysis of materials using  liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (HPLC) starts from $350/sample.

        Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) techniques like HPLC and UPLC are used for quantitative and qualitative analysis and trace level detection of polymer extractables, plasticizers, surfactants, pharmaceuticals, etc. High-sensitive and greater specificity can be achieved using quadrupole spectrometers like MS-MS.

        Both techniques work on the same principle. However, during the separation process, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) uses a gas phase to separate analytes, whereas a liquid solvent is used in liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS).

        While LC-MS cannot handle gaseous or volatile samples, it is useful for analyzing thermally unstable samples like biological fluids.