Mass Spectrometry: A Technique for the Masses

Although the performance of some segments of the mass spectrometry (MS) market may not meet supplier expectations, most areas of the market will continue to grow very strongly. Despite the expected slowing of the global economy, the MS market is expected to grow nearly 10% in 2008, easily exceeding $2.3 billion in worldwide sales. The continued investment in research and development by both the private and public sectors for analytical technologies is furthering the steady development of performance improvements in MS. While it is not certain which MS techniques will become the future instrument market leaders, it is highly likely that the overall category will remain one of the premier analytical techniques for years to come.

While the pharmaceutical industry will remain the primary source of demand for most MS techniques, biotechnology demand will continue to significantly outpace that of the traditional pharmaceutical segment. Demand from secondary industries for MS, including agriculture and food, environmental testing and petrochemicals, has surged as of late, and that trend is expected to continue into 2008 before moderating in 2009 and 2010. While this demand in the food, environmental and petrochemical sectors will—to some extent—benefit all segments of the MS market, it will clearly have the most impact on the GC/MS market, which should grow more than 1% in 2008 in contrast to 2007, when it experienced strong growth.

As expected, Agilent’s 2006 entry into the triple quadrupole and Q-TOF segments of the MS market had a major impact. This was especially evident in the triple quadrupole MS marketplace, where Agilent became a formidable competitor, capturing market share, attracting new customers for this important technology and adding fuel to the fire for the tandem LC/MS market. The effect of Agilent’s entry into these areas should remain significant throughout 2008, helping to drive growth in the tandem LC/MS and LC-TOF segments of 12% and 11%, respectively.

Within the tandem LC/MS market, the triple quadrupole MS segment will dominate in 2008, both in terms of size and growth, partly due to Agilent’s participation. However, demand for ion trap MS will also see nearly double-digit growth. This market is characterized by a shift from conventional three-dimensional mass analyzers to more innovative two-dimensional and three-dimensional designs that provide more efficient ion-trapping capabilities and, therefore, improved performance.

The FT-MS market is trending towards mainstream status and this should continue in 2008, thanks to the efforts of Thermo Fisher Scientific and its very successful LTQ-FT, first introduced in 2002, and the even more popular LTQ-Orbitrap, released in 2005. These systems have not only spurred the development of tandem FT-MS systems with ion trap or quadrupole front ends, they now account for most of the FT-MS segment’s sales and have drawn considerable attention. In addition, this excitement has helped other competitors in the market, including Varian (which now owns IonSpec) and Bruker Daltonics.

Although the development of FT-MS has made the method far more accessible to a broader range of scientists, pitting it more directly against Q-TOF MS, demand for Q-TOF is continuing its robust growth, due in part to continued technological advancements. The combined growth of the FT-MS and Q-TOF markets demonstrate that there is still an enormous appetite for high-performance MS.

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