Happy Birthday, Triple Quadrupole!

A major innovation in mass spectrometry happened 40 years ago.

Mass spectrometry is a popular technique for analyzing an unknown sample.  Mass spec works by measuring the mass (weight) of the different molecules within the sample.  (You can read a more detailed explanation here.)

Back in the 1970s, two chemists – professor Christie Enke and graduate student Richard Yost – were looking for an alternative to traditional chromatography to separate and analyze compounds.  Their idea was to use a quadrupole (a set of four electrified metal rods) to filter ions (charged particles) of the molecules in question.  By lining up three quadrupoles in a row, they could produce, fragment and boost the ions using very little energy.

Enke and Yost published their model in March 1978.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

“The triple quadrupole helped turn mass spectrometry into an analytical chemistry method,” writes Chemical & Energy News.  “Before then, mass spectrometry had been primarily used by physical and organic chemists, not for quantifying molecules in samples but for identifying them.  Over the ensuing 40 years, the triple quad became a workhorse of quantitative mass spectrometry.”

C&EN provides a nice retrospective of this important milestone.  Agilent, as a leading provider of mass spec, GC triple quad and LC triple quad instrumentation, is featured prominently.

The article quotes Agilent scientists Terry Sheehan and Shane Tichy in its history of the triple quad.  And the Agilent Ultivo Triple Quadrupole LC/MS is highlighted as a recent innovation in triple quad technology.

(Both Shane and the Ultivo have been featured in previous blog posts.)


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