High energy collisions on tandem time-of-flight mass spectrometers

Robert J. Cotter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Long before the introduction of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI), electrospray ionization (ESI), Orbitraps, and any of the other tools that are now used ubiquitously for proteomics and metabolomics, the highest performance mass spectrometers were sector instruments, providing high resolution mass measurements by combining an electrostatic energy analyzer (E) with a high field magnet (B). In its heyday, the four sector mass spectrometer (or EBEB) was the crown jewel, providing the highest performance tandem mass spectrometry using single, high energy collisions to induce fragmentation. During a time in which quadrupole and tandem triple quadrupole instruments were also enjoying increased usage and popularity, there were, nonetheless, some clear advantages for sectors over their low collision energy counterparts. Time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometers are high voltage, high vacuum instruments that have much in common with sectors and have inspired the development of tandem instruments exploiting single high energy collisions. In this retrospective, we recount our own journey to produce high performance TOFs and tandem TOFs, describing the basic theory, problems, and the advantages for such instruments. An experiment testing impulse collision theory (ICT) underscores the similarities with sector mass spectrometers where this concept was first developed. Applications provide examples of more extensive fragmentation, side chain cleavages, and charge-remote fragmentation, also characteristic of high energy sector mass spectrometers. Moreover, the so-called curved-field reflectron has enabled the design of instruments that are simpler, collect and focus all of the ions, and may provide the future technology for the clinic, for tissue imaging, and the characterization of microorganisms. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-674
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • CID
  • Collision-induced dissociation
  • Fullerene
  • High energy collisions
  • ICT
  • Impulse collision theory
  • Metastable ions
  • TOF
  • Time-of-Flight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Spectroscopy


Dive into the research topics of 'High energy collisions on tandem time-of-flight mass spectrometers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this