MAURO FERMARIELLO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MAURO FERMARIELLO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Mass spectrometer being used by a researcher. Mass spectrometers are used to analyse the chemical composition of samples of materials. They work by converting the molecules in the sample into ions. The ions are propelled to form a beam which is deflected 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 analysed, allowing very low concentrations of chemicals to be detected.
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