Home Infomercial THMG103a – High-Pressure Mass Spectrometry with 908 Devices

THMG103a – High-Pressure Mass Spectrometry with 908 Devices


We talk to Dr. Mark Norman from 908 Devices about the new and expanded capabilities of high-pressure mass spectrometry. With the launch of MX908, responders are now equipped with even broader capabilities for true trace-level hazmat and narcotics detection and identification.

Complete Show Notes

1:05 Introduction to Dr. Mark Norman

  • Started back in 2001 with a company out of Danbury, CT called SensIR Technologies – known for the TravelIR, which was the first portable infrared identifier
  • TravelIR played a huge role in identifying white powders and was particularly helpful during a time of white powder scares (i.e. anthrax)
  • He’s been working with a lot of different emerging technologies over the past 16 years as they enter the field
  • Currently Director of Technical Services at 908 Devices – runs the training and customer service group
  • Also responsible for a lot of field activities with their M908 and MX908 identifiers

2:55 Mass Spectrometry Refresher

  • Mass spec identifies chemical products based on their mass – think of it like a very fancy scale
  • Weighs chemicals for their mass pattern and uses that data to identify them
  • Every chemical has its own unique set of masses – mass spec breaks chemicals down into their component parts and weighs the different masses individually
  • High-pressure mass spec units do the same time, but they work at a higher pressure than traditional mass spec units do
  • These units are still under vacuum (think Shop-Vac), but the pressure is much higher
  • Allows them to create a handheld, low-power mass spec unit that’s easy to transport and use down range
  • High-pressure units allow you to pull gasses off of solids – plus, you can measure solids by heating them up

5:45 The M908

  • Over 300 of these units in use today – at least 1 in every state in the union and across 4 continents

7:00 The MX908

  • A little bigger than the M908, which means it’s easier to use in Level A and Level B suits
  • Uses an ionization technique called atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) – allows you to ionize more products and create positive and negative ions simultaneously
  • This technology allows you to identify far more chemicals than you could with the M908 and other identifiers
  • Also provides one thousand more times sensitivity – you can detect down to the parts per billion and parts per trillion levels
  • Firewall between where the products come in for ionization and where they’re measured – this virtually eliminates the possibility of overloading the unit
  • Also doubles the target identification ability of the M908 from 100 target chemicals to 200 target chemicals
  • New software contains “hunter mode” – you can tell the meter what kind of substances you’re looking for (chemical warfare agents, illegal drugs, etc.)

11:40 Using the MX908 in the Field

  • Improved sensitivity because you can differentiate very closely between different substances – way below ILDH
  • Many other meters are too sensitive, which can lead to confusion and false positives
  • You can detect at very low levels and still identify the specific substance you’re dealing with – goes far behind merely identifying the presence of something

14:00 Dr. Norman’s Thoughts on Fentanyl and the MX908

  • Fentanyl is 908 Devices’ highest priority from a capability standpoint
  • They’ve been in touch with a variety of government entities to get their hands on fentanyl and its analogues (both pure and street forms)
  • 908 Devices products can detect fentanyl and over a dozen of its analogues at nanogram levels, even in the presence of cutting agents
  • They’re working on adding fentanyl and its analogues to the MX908’s hunter mode substance library
  • The vapor pressure of fentanyl is too low on its own, so the identifier has to heat it up to read it
  • The MX908 essentially destroys fentanyl as it reads it, and you’re only dealing with trace amounts to start with – helps eliminate the possibility of needing to deeply decon the identifier

17:40 Upgrading from the M908 to the MX908

  • Anyone who bought the M908 had the option to pay a little bit more up front – allowed you to swap your M908 for the MX908 when it came out without paying anything more
  • 908 Devices comes out and trains people on the MX908 when they’re ready to swap and takes the M908 unit with them afterwards
  • Their goal was to make sure anyone who had the M908 would be able to easily get the newest technology when it was available

18:50 Maintaining the MX908

  • Little to no maintenance with these units – no periodic calibration necessary
  • All you have to do is keep it clean – 908 Devices recommends giving it a bump test whenever you’re servicing your other meters
  • It might cost you around $100 each year to replace the swabs used in trace mode, but that’s it
  • You don’t have to start the MX908 on a regular basis – just use it when you need it

19:55 Training on the MX908

  • Dr. Norman offers a 4-hour training course for this unit, but it mostly covers hands-on sampling
  • However, you can easily learn to use the MX908 in half an hour – or even less if you know how to use the M908
  • The buttons and software are the same as the M908

21:50 908 Devices Versus the Competition

  • Other companies use a different type of mass spec called a mass analyzer, while 908 Devices uses what’s called a micro ion trap
  • The mass spectrometer (which does all the work) is basically the size of a dime in a 908 Devices product
  • The volume they need to pump down to that operating pressure is so small that the pump they use can fit in your hand – pumps down in just a few seconds, as opposed to 30-60 seconds with the competition

23:15 Where to Find Out More

  • Website: 908 Devices
  • You can send 908 Devices a request to contact you from their website
  • They also offer workshops at shows and training conferences throughout the year where you can get your hands on the meters and talk to experts

Have a question? Send an email to feedback@thehazmatguys.com or leave a message on our Haz Mat Guys comment hotline: 843-628-1484

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