Orbitrap LC-MS

Orbitrap: Highest accuracy and precision

Benefit from the high-resolution, accurate-mass (HRAM) performance advantages offered by our unique Orbitrap mass analyzers. Orbitrap systems connect to liquid chromatography equipment to enhance separation of unknown compounds and enable high-throughput workflows.

Thermo Scientific offers a wide portfolio of Orbitrap-based MS systems, including systems combined with ion traps and quadrupole mass filters, to address all your analysis needs.

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What is Orbitrap?

What is Orbitrap?

The Orbitrap is an ion trap mass analyzer that consists of two outer electrodes and a central electrode, which enable it to act as both an analyzer and detector. Ions entering the Orbitrap are captured through "electrodynamic squeezing," after which they oscillate around the central electrode and in between the two outer electrodes. Different ions oscillate at different frequencies, resulting in their separation. By measuring the oscillation frequencies induced by ions on the outer electrodes, the mass spectra of the ions are acquired using image current detection. Due to its setup, the Orbitrap mass analyzer is actually a Fourier Transform mass analyzer analog of FT-ion cyclotron resonance (ICR) technology, yet with smaller instrument size and easier instrument operation.

Key benefits of Orbitrap mass spectrometry

Unparalleled sensitivity, resolution, and accuracy

Orbitrap technology drives high-resolution, accurate mass (HRAM) data, generating incredibly high resolution measurements of up to 500,000 FWHM (with the option of achieving up to 1,000,000 FWHM) at m/z 200. This distinguishing feature, which is unique to the Orbitrap, is made possible by three factors:

  1. Nanometer-range accuracy electrodes.
  2. High voltage supplies.
  3. Mass-to-charge measurements delivered as a function of oscillation frequency.

Due to the superior resolving capabilities of Orbitrap technology, accurate mass assignment is easily achieved, with sub-1-ppm mass accuracy typical of injected analytes.

Unprecedented qual/quan analysis means high selectivity and sensitivity

Because Orbitrap technology provides quantitative and qualitative (quan/qual) HRAM analytical capability in a single platform and often in a single run, it has been increasingly applied towards a range of challenging applications requiring high selectivity and sensitivity.

Unprecedented qual/quan analysis means high selectivity and sensitivity

When the instrument generates full-scan HRAM data during untargeted analysis, easy identification of novel compounds and retrospective data analysis are accomplished without the need to re-run samples. During targeted analysis scans, the instrument confidently achieves confirmation and identification of residual small and large molecules.

What about Q-TOF systems?

While TOF MS systems are capable of fast full-scan data acquisition, they have limitations. For example, Q-TOFs are limited in their resolution at the small molecule mass range. This can result in false identification (false negatives and false positives) of an analyte and the inability to quantitate the analytes of interest [1].

The latest hybrid Orbitrap systems, such as the Thermo Scientific Q Exactive HF MS, provide high mass resolution and accuracy over a wide mass range—including the small molecule mass range.

With Orbitrap technology, true high mass resolution and mass accuracy are delivered by one compact and easy-to-use instrument that can reliably and routinely deliver sub-ppb sensitivity and sub-ppm mass accuracy [2].

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Why use Orbitrap in your lab?

Orbitrap mass spectrometers deliver a total possible maximum resolution (FWHM) of 1,000,000 at m/z 200 and a sub-1 ppm mass accuracy in a single compact and easy-to-use instrument. These high-resolution accurate-mass systems detect a wide range of compounds and small molecules during both targeted and untargeted analyses, without losing selectivity or sensitivity. Simply put, when it comes to Orbitrap technology, there is no compromise.

Figure 1. The different resolution achievements of Orbitrap instruments compared to commercially available TOF mass spectrometers.
Figure 1. The different resolution achievements of Orbitrap instruments compared to Q-TOF mass spectrometers.
 Click to enlarge
Figure 2. Orbitrap mass accuracy signal strength as a function of ion quantity compared against commercially available TOF mass spectrometers.
Figure 2. Orbitrap mass accuracy signal strength as a function of ion quantity compared to Q-TOF mass spectrometers.
 Click to enlarge
  • Q-TOF: resolving power 40,000, transmission 4% (grids x duty cycle x angular scattering on grids)
  • Orbitrap transmission: 50%

Learn more about each Orbitrap family

We offer systems ranging from the Exactive Plus Orbitrap LC-MS to the Orbitrap Fusion Lumos Tribrid mass spectrometer. Some of these Orbitrap systems not only feature a top resolution of 1,000,000 FWHM at m/z 200 but also achieve scan rates of 40 Hz.

Which instrument best fits your laboratory's needs? Click on each system to learn more.

Orbitrap families





High sample throughput and confidence in results

Easy-to-use and cost effective to operate

Ideal for: routine food safety, environmental screening, clinical research, forensic toxicology, DMPK, metabolomics and biopharma, and intact protein analysis applications


Superior combination of scan speed, high resolution, mass accuracy, spectral quality and sensitivity

Ideal for: biopharma, forensic toxicology, targeted and high-throughput analysis of low-level components in complex matrices


Innovative Orbitrap Tribrid technology

Identification of low-level and unknown compounds, even in complex matrices

Ideal for: challenging and discovery experiments in advanced proteomics, glycan analysis, proteomics and metabolomics.

Common applications of Orbitrap HRAM technology

Due to its HRAM capabilities, the Orbitrap is often the mass analyzer of choice for elucidating novel, untargeted compounds at sub-ppb concentrations and/or sub-ppm mass differences. The Orbitrap is frequently used in research applications to elucidate low-abundance, high complexity, or otherwise difficult samples, including those collected in proteomics, lipidomics, clinical research and forensic toxicology, food and beverage, and environmental laboratories. This is because high resolving power can make the difference between detecting and not detecting low concentration analytes (due to the masking effect of isobaric interferences).

Featured videos


  1. Rajski Ł, Gómez-Ramos Mdel M, Fernández-Alba AR (2014) Large pesticide multiresidue screening method by liquid chromatography-Orbitrap mass spectrometry in full scan mode applied to fruit and vegetables J Chromatog A 1360: 119-127. Science Direct
  2. Eliuk S, Makarov A (2015) Evolution of Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry Instrumentation Ann Rev Anal Chem 8: 61-80. Annual Reviews




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