Mass Spec @ UMONS

The question may probably often arise to understand why MassSpec, such an expensive methodology, may be considered as one of the specificities of the Chemistry Department at UMONS. This finds its origin when learning that the Mons laboratory actively participated to the development of Organic Mass Spectrometry in Europe.

Mass Spectrometry was introduced at the “State University of Mons” – Université de l’Etat à Mons – in the late sixties by Prof André Maquestiau and Prof Robert Flammang as part of the analytical methods to support organic synthesis of heterocyclic compounds.

Both colleagues fastly realized that mass spectrometry for organic molecules was still in its childhood and that more specific experiments had to be undertaken to understand the physico-chemical processes undergone by molecules exposed to electronic and chemical ionizations. They then became key actors in the field of Gas Phase Ion Chemistry and participated to the development of organic mass spectrometry with eminent colleagues such as Prof Nibberring, Schwarz, Audier, Bouchoux, Cookes, Beynon and many more…

They also realized that the commercially available mass spectrometers remained, at that time, quite limited to decipher the chemistry of gaseous ions and entered in a phase of development and modifications of instruments. The first breakthrough was, in 1976, the modification of a Varian MAT 311 A (reversed geometry) by the installation of a collision cell between the magnetic and the electric sectors and E (Bull Soc Chim Bel 1976).

Insertion of a collision cell between the magnetic and the electric sectors within a Varian MAT 311 A, reversed geometry mass spectrometer (1976)


In 1976, surfing the wave, they went a step even further by deeply modifying their AEI MS902 mass spectrometer (EB geometry) by the installation of an additional electric sector together with a collision cell to afford the original EBE geometry (Bull Soc Chim Bel 1978).

Modification of AEI MS902 mass spectrometer (EB geometry) by the installation of an additional electric sector together with a collision (1978)

Both the original mass spectrometers allowed efficient ion manipulations, including high resolution measurements, collision-induced dissociation experiments and Metastable Ion Kinetic Energy Spectrometry (MIKES) experiments.

As for a demonstration of the relevance of those modifications, Prof Beynon sent the following letter to Prof Maquestiau & Flammang in 1978.

Part of a letter from JH Beynon to A Maquestiau and R Flammang

In 1992, Prof Robert Flammang together with Prof Yves Van Haverbeke (head of the organic chemistry lab) acquired the largest sector instrument ever, the VG Autospec 6F. This original mass spectrometer was built following the drawings of Prof Flammang on the basis of the Autospec 3 F mass spectrometer (Int.J.Mass Spectrom. 1992). This wonderful mass spectrometer was able to run, under high resolution conditions (R > 60.000 @ 5 %), MSn as well as neutralization-reionization experiments in electronic, chemical ionization and lSIMS.

VG Autospec 6F mass spectrometer (1992) : 6 sector instruments presenting the original EBEEBE geometry (IJMS 1992).

In 1995, this instrument was again modified by inserting an rf-only quadrupole cell within E3 and E4 to allow running associative ion/molecule reactions (Int.J.Mass Spectrom. 1995).

In 2001, a Waters QToF 2 mass spectrometer was acquired by the laboratory. MALDI-ToF capabilities emerged in the lab in 2006 by the acquisition of the Waters QToF premier mass spectrometer. Recently, in 2015, a Waters Synapt G2-Si instrument with ion mobility was acquired. The introduction of Electrospray ionization, MALDI and ion mobility in the laboratory paves the way to modern mass spectrometry researches as described in the “Research @ S2MOs” pages.