Mass Spectrometry Questions & Answers

What are the advantages of mass spectrometry?

Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that determines the molecular weight of compounds and can therefore identify specific elements. Additionally, MS can tell you if the compound contains certain elements such as bromine and chlorine. The presence of these halogens is easily detected by noting the intensity ratios of ions differing by two atomic mass units (m/z). When combined with other identification techniques such as carbon and proton NMR and IR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry can be very useful when attempting to identify an unknown compound.


Figure 1. MS results of a strawberry

What type of products can Hamamatsu offer for mass spec?

A mass spectrometer consists of an ionization section, an ion separation section, and a detection section. Mass spectrometers are grouped into various types according to the ionization, separation, and detection methods. The features required for components in a mass spectrometer differ according to the type of mass spectrometer.


Hamamatsu develops and manufactures a wide range of products related to mass spectrometry. These include ion detectors that are key devices for the detection section, light sources for photoionizationHVPS for ion acceleration and detector operation, and measurement support tools, such as DIUTHAME and phosphors, for mass spec users.

Figure 2. Example diagram of an MS system

What are the benefits of using Hamamatsu MS components?

Hamamatsu has a long history of perfecting hard-to-manufacture technologies such as PMTs and MCPs through collaboration with our Central Research Lab (CRL). In addition, at Hamamatsu, we can combine our technologies such as MCPs and avalanche diodes to create unique solutions such as our Mightion detector.


As mass spec becomes smaller and smaller, traditional detectors will not suffice due to high noise. We have developed the triode detector, specifically meant for portable applications that require high pressure/low vacuum.


At Hamamatsu, we are sensitive to regulations that our customers face and create technology to adhere to regulations such as the RoHS directive, creating lead-free solutions such as the Cerarion and ALD-MCP. Because our scientists at CRL use mass spectrometry themselves, they have developed solutions such as DIUTHAME, which does not require a matrix solution that is a hard-to-prepare and non-reproducible measurement technique. In line with this, our goal at Hamamatsu is to provide our customers with comprehensive solutions.


Below are examples of our new technologies for MS. You can also find more details on our mass spectrometry page.


Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about detectors, ionization light sources, power supplies, and other MS components we offer.

Figure 3. Triode-type MCP assembly for high pressure operation
Watch the operating principle video

Figure 4. Cerarion lead-free channel electron multiplier
Visit our main website for more info

Figure 5. Mightion hybrid ion detector combining an MCP and avalanche diode
Watch the operating principle video

Figure 6. DIUTHAME substrates for MALDI TOF-MS
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What new products does Hamamatsu have to offer for mass spectrometry?

Hamamatsu has developed a new ALD (atomic layer deposition) MCP that does not use lead. The RoHS directive issued by the EU has identified lead as a hazardous substance and prohibits the sales of electrical and electronic equipment containing specified amounts of this substance in the EU market.


Please see the news release [217 KB PDF] for more details.

What is DIUTHAME, and why should I try it?

I’m so glad you asked! DIUTHAME is a matrix-free solution for measuring mass spectrum and mass imaging data. What does that mean? That means it’s easy to use, noise-free, and reproducible. If you’ve ever worked with matrix, you know it takes a lot of practice, it introduces noise in the lower mass range, and it’s not able to keep position information.


DIUTHAME stands for Desorption Ionization Using Through Hole Alumina Membrane. (Fun fact: the acronym reminded the Japanese professor, who developed the product, of the work Je t’aime, which means love in French). The combined porous aluminum membrane and laser ionize the sample, and position information can be preserved for imaging. This allows for accurate and reproducible imaging capability. Additionally, the resolution is far superior.


Want to learn more about DIUTHAME? View how to use video tutorials.


To see the DIUTHAME products we offer, go to our main website.

What standards have you tested with it?

We have tested a vast array of samples. We provide data on PEO hydrogenated castor oil, peptide mix, polyethylene glycol PEG2000, polystyrene, POPC, Bruker Peptide Calibration Standard II, homogentisic acid, progesterone, cortisol, testosterone, amino acid mix, insulin, black rice, and mouse brain in our DIUTHAME catalog [2.3 MB PDF]


Additionally, you can find application notes on the measurement of frozen chicken, chocolate, fresh strawberry, mouse brain, flower petal, industrial material, polymer material, black rice, skin and slime mold.

How do I prepare my sample? Do I need a special plate, or can I use my standard plate?

Great question! DIUTHAME is very easy to use. For mass spectrum data with liquid samples, you simply drop the sample on the effective area, wait for it to dry, and then adhere the DIUTHAME substrate to your standard plate with the adhesion areas. For imaging data, we recommend you slice the sample 50 µm thick, mount it on an ITO glass slide, and place the DIUTHAME on the sample. Once the sample is absorbed, you can adhere the DIUTHAME to the plate.


Our new blotting substrates are meant to be used in situations where it is difficult to slice samples very thin. Our blotting substrates are also more robust; please view video tutorial.

What different form factors can I purchase? Can I reuse a DIUTHAME plate, or is it for one-time use?

We have plates with a 3 mm spot, nine 3 mm spots, or an 18 mm spot for imaging. We just recently came out with a 50 mm x 19 mm plate, which includes a spot for a calibrant. Additionally, we have a new plate for DESI (desorption electrospray ionization) as well as our blotting substrates mentioned above. DIUTHAME is for one-time use.

Who is currently using DIUTHAME? Who are you collaborating with?

DIUTHAME was developed by Professor Naito at our partner research university GPI (The Graduate School for the Creation of New Photonics Industries) in Japan. Professor Naito has a long history of work using mass spectrometers, and he developed DIUTHAME as a solution for the drawbacks of matrix. We are very proud of the work that comes out of GPI and honored to have them as our collaborators.


DIUTHAME was originally introduced in Japan in 2015 and introduced to North America at ASMS 2018. Some of our collaborators include Teikyo University, Nagoya University, Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (WPI-OTbM), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), International Mass Imaging Center and Department of Cellular and Molecular Anatomy, and Tohoku University. Please see related literature for the latest publications.


We would love to have you try DIUTHAME! Contact us if you would like to try samples.


For more info about DIUTHAME, go to our main website.


If you have a technical question you’d like to see answered on this page, email us.

Meet the engineers

Kohta Katsuyama is a marketing engineer in Hamamatsu’s San Jose, CA, office. His expertise is in mass spectrometry components and PMTs, and he is researching infrared and terahertz technologies. His busy home life with three children forces him to sometimes spend time in the kitchen, and his cooking specialty is stewed Japanese cuisine. He loved ramen so much that he finally did all the steps at home to make a bowl of ramen from scratch.

Columbine Robinson is an Applications Engineer who grew up in lovely California. She’s always loved math and science, and received her Master’s Degree in Solid State Physics from UCSD. Prior to working at Hamamatsu Corporation, she was involved in semiconductor defect inspection where she gained vast experience in optics and image processing. Her hobbies include backpacking/hiking, playing chess, and making pottery.