What type of work are you involved in?
I work as an analytical chemist at the Swedish National Food Agency (NFA). My main work is to develop multi-residue pesticide methods that are used in routine monitoring control. During the last few years we have developed an alternative extraction method based on ethyl acetate. The Swedish ethyl acetate method or SweEt method is available as an NMKL-method (Nordic Committee on Food Analysis) “Pesticide residues analysis in food with ethyl acetate extraction using gas and liquid chromatograph…” (NMKL 195, 2013). The major advantages of SweEt are that it´s fast, easy and applicable to direct injection of ethyl acetate in LC-MS/MS as well as GC-MS/MS and, thus requires negligible sample work up.
Apart from that, I develop methods for analytes in the area of Food Contact Materials (FCMs).
The scientific level of competence needs to be high and up-to-date since the NFA is the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for pesticides and FCMs.
The NFA has some interesting ideas about food fraud which we hope will have a big impact on our laboratory and future work. Another important area for method development is the analysis of drinking water for which we´re planning to implement the Orbitrap technology.
Why did you decide to evaluate LC-Orbitrap Technology?
I attended the Thermo Fisher Scientific 1st International Symposium on Recent Developments in Pesticide Analysis in Prague in 2015. Primarily because we were interested in the ability to be able to do quantitative target analysis for the analytes in our routine scope, and in addition, screen for unexpected pesticides all in the same run. That gives a more efficient workflow instead of analysing the routine scope on LC-MS/MS and separately looking for unknowns with HRAM technique.
At the Symposium I had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the capabilities of the Orbitrap technology from presentations by recognized experts including, Hans Mol, Prof. Amadeo Fernandez-Alba and Jana Hajslova. Also, I have read a number of articles in the peer reviewed literature from Hans Mol, Amadeo Fernandez-Alba and Jon Wong. It seemed to me that the Orbitrap technology, as well as the software is far more interesting and easy-to handle than our LC-Q ToF. I guess you could say that after the symposium we had great expectations that an HRAM instrument would really work in routine analyses.
So I guess I have to ask if the Orbitrap is living up to your expectations?
Yes! We´re still in the beginning of our work, on the Q Exactive Focus mass spectrometer, but it seems very promising.
Calibration curves with very good correlation factors for several compounds down to 0.001 mg/kg (0.0005 µg/ml). The TraceFinder software with the Compound Database gives a good structure and overview, easy to handle and to work with.
With LC-MS/MS technology there are limitations in the number of analytes that can be included in the acquisition method. Therefore, to cover the full scope, the method is divided into two separate runs. With the Orbitrap technology there are no such limitations so it is much more efficient.
One interesting aspect has been the variable data-independent acquisition (vDIA) mode which provides fragmentation data in a limited m/z range which helps in the analysis of complex matrices, and enables compliance with the SANTE guidelines for pesticide identification. It also helps with retrospective analysis of unexpected residues.
However we still have a lot to learn before we can realize the full capabilities of the Q Exactive Focus Orbitrap instrument.
What do you think the future holds?
It is exciting! In addition to pesticides, our laboratory also analyses mycotoxins, veterinary drugs, vitamins, acrylamide and other small molecules that would be interesting to investigate using the different acquisition modes and also and to evaluate the benefits of reviewing data retrospectively for these other residues and contaminants.
You seem to be having fun with the Orbitrap, how do you relax away from work?
I truly love sports, athletics and football! I’ve been a football coach for 10 years, love it but I’m trying to cut it down so I have more time for late nights with the Orbitrap.
Susanne, thank you for sharing your Orbitrap experience with me and we look forward reading more about your work at upcoming conferences and publications.