With a hand-held device that detects infinitesimal traces of airborne chemicals, farmers could screen produce for pesticide residue or bacterial contamination, industries could safeguard local communities from harmful pollutants, and the armed forces could root out treaty-busting chemical weapons. Research that can produce highly sensitive and portable detectors got a formidable boost this month with the establishment of a national center that brings together top researchers in the field.
This month, the U.S. Department of Energy Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) committed $1.7 million to establish a collaborative Center for Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS Center) based in Idaho Falls. Ion mobility spectrometry is a growing area of fundamental and applied research that has potential applications in such diverse spheres as agriculture, environmental management, and drug discovery -- wherever trace molecules need to be detected and identified.
Veteran ion mobility researchers from INEEL, Washington State University, New Mexico State University and Montana State University will contribute expertise, equipment and personnel to better understand the fundamental basis of ion mobility spectrometry and to develop new applications to further exploit this technology.
The center's director, INEEL analytical chemist David Atkinson, said it is a good time to pool available resources. "There are very few research groups who study ion mobility spectrometry in detail," he said. "We are bringing together four of the best."
Since its aggregate expertise in ion mobility spectrometry fills a
specific technical niche in the analytical chemistry field, the IMS Center is
developing an affiliation with the Center for Process Analytical Chemistry
(CPAC). Based at the University of Washington, CPAC is a consortium of
industrial sponsors and several national laboratories and government agencies
Contact: Mary Beckman
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory