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Isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Technician observes the visual display unit of an isotope ratio mass spectrometer during the analysis of a sample. A mass spectrometer works by deflecting a beam of charged atoms in a vacuum by passing it through an electric or magnetic field. Each element has a different charge to mass ratio and so will be deflected by a different amount. This "spectrum" of ions can be detected electrically and analysed. The technique can be used to detect very low concentrations of chemicals and molecules in a sample.
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