Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 394, Issue 8, pp 1995–2008 | Cite as

Forensic applications of ambient ionization mass spectrometry

  • Demian R. Ifa
  • Ayanna U. Jackson
  • Giuseppe Paglia
  • R. Graham Cooks


This review highlights and critically assesses forensic applications in the developing field of ambient ionization mass spectrometry. Ambient ionization methods permit the ionization of samples outside the mass spectrometer in the ordinary atmosphere, with minimal sample preparation. Several ambient ionization methods have been created since 2004 and they utilize different mechanisms to create ions for mass-spectrometric analysis. Forensic applications of these techniques—to the analysis of toxic industrial compounds, chemical warfare agents, illicit drugs and formulations, explosives, foodstuff, inks, fingerprints, and skin—are reviewed. The minimal sample pretreatment needed is illustrated with examples of analysis from complex matrices (e.g., food) on various substrates (e.g., paper). The low limits of detection achieved by most of the ambient ionization methods for compounds of forensic interest readily offer qualitative confirmation of chemical identity; in some cases quantitative data are also available. The forensic applications of ambient ionization methods are a growing research field and there are still many types of applications which remain to be explored, particularly those involving on-site analysis. Aspects of ambient ionization currently undergoing rapid development include molecular imaging and increased detection specificity through simultaneous chemical reaction and ionization by addition of appropriate chemical reagents.


Forensics/toxicology Mass spectrometry plasma mass spectrometry Ambient analysis Illicit drugs Explosives Counterfeit pharmaceuticals 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Demian R. Ifa
    • 1
  • Ayanna U. Jackson
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Paglia
    • 1
    • 2
  • R. Graham Cooks
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of FoggiaFoggiaItaly

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