The developments in mass spectrometry (MS) in the past few decades reveal the power and versatility of this technology. MS methods are utilized in routine analyses as well as research activities involving a broad range of analytes (elements and molecules) and countless matrices. However, manual MS analysis is gradually becoming a thing of the past. In this article, the available MS automation strategies are critically evaluated. Automation of analytical workflows culminating with MS detection encompasses involvement of automated operations in any of the steps related to sample handling/treatment before MS detection, sample introduction, MS data acquisition, and MS data processing. Automated MS workflows help to overcome the intrinsic limitations of MS methodology regarding reproducibility, throughput, and the expertise required to operate MS instruments. Such workflows often comprise automated off-line and on-line steps such as sampling, extraction, derivatization, and separation. The most common instrumental tools include autosamplers, multi-axis robots, flow injection systems, and lab-on-a-chip. Prototyping customized automated MS systems is a way to introduce non-standard automated features to MS workflows. The review highlights the enabling role of automated MS procedures in various sectors of academic research and industry. Examples include applications of automated MS workflows in bioscience, environmental studies, and exploration of the outer space.
- Mass spectrometry
- Sample preparation