Bigger is not always better.

There is no question that the Mack truck is an extraordinarily high-performing vehicle to move cargo, but do you need a Mack truck to go to the market? How about for trekking the family to the beach? My guess is, no.  Our performance criteria for mobility and moving cargo are very different than would be required for a Mack truck.  We want the “mini-mack”; power, performance and easier to park.

This happens again and again with technology; the promise of high performance in smaller packages.  Analytical instrumentation has certainly moved in this direction as well.  In the past ten years there has been a shift in the use of lab-based spectrometry with the introduction of handheld Raman, FTIR and XRF technologies – the original “mini-macks”, if you will.  These advanced technologies have been crunched down into a handheld form factor weighing a few pounds and perform very specific jobs for users who really have no interest in knowing how a Raman or FTIR spectrometer works or what’s happening inside.  They simply have a job to get done and want answers.

Until recently, mass spectrometers have been missing from the ranks of this “mini-mack” movement. The typical mass spectrometer is very large and very good at it’s job; and therefore there has been a long-standing interest in miniaturizing them – that’s where we come in.

In March we proudly introduced the world’s first handheld mass spectrometer – M908.

The M908 was purpose-built to meet very specific performance criteria for the first responder community; Hazmat technicians, fire fighters, military, and police to detect and  identify the highest priority hazards.  M908 can analyze vapors, liquids or solids and can detect and identify from trace concentrations (in the ppb range) all the way up to bulk materials. We packaged the mass spectrometer, battery, embedded computer and  pump into a 4.4lb. kit that has been ruggedized for all-weather performance.  It may not do every task a complex and expensive lab mass spec can do – but it does it’s job very well.

What’s next? Our emerging interest is to seek out applications where we can take this ridiculously small mass spec technology and focus it on specific and guided tasks in a number of different applications for life sciences, environmental, oil & gas and beyond.  The possibilities are endless!

So  I guess while we could all be driving our diesel guzzling Mack trucks to the market I’ll happily downsize to a smaller version.  Performance, efficiency, and a good sound system will do just fine.