The HazMat Guys

In this episode, Bob delves a little deeper into mass spectrometry with Trey Sieger of 908 Devices.

Complete Show Notes

3:15 Background on Trey Sieger and 908 Devices

  • Has worked with analytical tools and detection technology for the past decade
  • Market Director for the safety and security market at 908 Devices
  • 908 Devices focuses on high-pressure mass spectrometry
  • The safety and security market deals with first responders, military personnel, civilian response, etc.
  • 908 Devices was founded in 2012 by some of the pioneers in the metering field
  • Took it upon themselves to fill in the gaps to equip responders with the meters they needed but didn’t have
  • The M908 was their first commercialized product that used high pressure technology

7:00 How Mass Spectrometry Helps Us in the Field

  • However, these devices are large, fragile, and complex, so they’re not as helpful in the field – they’re also quite expensive
  • 908 Devices tackled all of these issues and created a mass spec device that can easily be used in the field

9:30 Mass Spectrometry and Where 908 Devices Fits In

  • Essentially, it’s a really fancy scale that weighs the mass of charged molecules
  • The mass of molecules and their parts is very unique, but mass spec has the power to distinguish between molecules
  • Introduce the sample (or whatever you want to measure) to the unit – as molecules float in front of it, their electrons take a positive or negative charge OR blow the molecule apart into a bunch of fragments
  • These units weigh the fragments to get a unique chemical fingerprint – then, they store that fingerprint in a larger library of chemicals that can be identified in the future
  • Mass spec allows you to measure quantities as low as PPB – or even below that – but 908 Devices meters still easy to handle
  • Superior to IMS systems, which can be just as sensitive, but aren’t very selective at all
  • 908 Devices products fill the gap between IMS and Raman because they’re both sensitive and selective

16:10 908 Devices Mass Spec Meters Are Fast!

  • When these devices monitor, you can see a signal pop up almost immediately – you’re not waiting for a cumulative response
  • This helps you direct your attention at the scene to figure out how to respond most efficiently
  • Then, it gives you a full response and lets you know whether you’ve got a match with a nasty chemical or substance

17:40 What Makes 908 Devices Different

  • 908 Devices focuses on three main things: hardware, user interface, and decision algorithms
  • Hardware
    • In traditional mass specs, you needed big pumps with huge batteries or power cords to bring down the pressure – this led to meters being the size of a small oven
    • 908 Devices created high-pressure products with pressure traps that are smaller than a dime and can operate at atmospheric pressure
    • Plus, their pumps are small enough to fit in your hand, but don’t take much power
  • Software
    • Devoted to creating intuitive monitors that are easy to understand
    • First responders and hazmat techs are looking at these on the go, so ease of use is key
  • Decision Algorithms
    • The same people who created Raman and FTIR devices created these decision algorithms, so you know they’re top-of-the-line
  • 908 Devices’ philosophy is different from larger manufacturers because their meters aren’t big or expensive and don’t require a dedicated user
  • They’re dedicated to figuring out what’s actually useful in the field, rather than in the lab – it’s the “oh crap” detector

24:30 Cost of 908 Devices Meters

  • Most mass spectrometry units cost $100,000-$150,000, in addition to thousands of dollars per year in maintenance and training
  • Most 908 Devices meters cost half of what traditional units cost, and you also won’t spend much on maintenance or upkeep
  • Plus, training to use these meters only takes half a day

27:45 Benefits of Identifying Over Just Classifying

  • Quickly classifying threats is certainly valuable in some scenarios, but identification is better
  • Think of it in terms of distinguishing between chemical weapons and garden pesticides – you want as many details as possible
  • You can make quick, informed decisions on how to act in the field when you have this level of specificity to operate with confidence

31:10 Looking to the Future

  • 908 Devices is focused on continuing to develop their chemistry technology
  • They want to build on the platform of high pressure mass spec to create even better devices

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