Triple Quadrupole GC/MS

Triple quadrupole gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) is a relatively small segment of the GC/MS market that has flown under the radar for several years, but now may become a more significant MS market segment. New entrants and recent instrument introductions indicate that there is a significant need for MS/MS capabilities in quadrupole-based GC/MS systems coming from a number of end-user markets.

One of the first commercialized triple quadrupole GC/MS systems was introduced by Waters in 2002 and was based on the company’s Quattro micro benchtop triple quadrupole LC/MS system. Varian also entered the triple quadrupole GC/MS market in 2002 with its 1200L GC/MS, which could be configured either as a single or triple quadrupole MS and used as either an LC/MS or GC/MS. Within the past two years, Thermo Fisher Scientific has entered the market, adapting its TSQ Quantum triple quadrupole LC/MS for GC/MS, while Varian has updated its product line and now offers two models of triple quadrupole GC/MS.

As one can notice, the common pattern among these vendors has been the adaptation of an existing triple quadrupole LC/MS system for GC/MS. However, one of the issues that has limited the introduction of such models is price. Triple quadrupole LC/MS systems are generally priced well over $300,000, which is easily twice the price to which most end-users of GC/MS systems are accustomed.

Recently, major vendors have been able to leverage their manufacturing expertise to introduce triple quadrupole LC/MS systems closer to $200,000. Even with the elimination of electrospray ionization sources, triple quadrupole MS systems are costly to manufacture. So it is not surprising that all three triple quadrupole GC/MS vendors have based their instruments on well-established platforms.

Triple quadrupole GC/MS is in demand for applications in several end-user markets, including environmental testing, agriculture and food, and forensics and toxicology. More complex samples, including fruits, vegetables, animal products, urine and plasma, require MS/MS capabilities. However, such capabilities are not useful across the wider range of applications in the environmental, agriculture and food markets. Therefore, the potential demand is limited to a niche market within the GC/MS market. Contract testing labs that aggregate testing needs from these industries, and which are more likely to test difficult samples, will be the strongest area of end-user demand.

In 2007, the total market for triple quadruple GC/MS was less than $15 million. Annual growth should approach the double digits over the next few years and will be a force in the growth of the more than $300 million quadrupole GC/MS market. As manufacturers continue to lower manufacturing costs and, in turn, lower system prices, the size of the potential market will broaden significantly.

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