Creating industry field tools
Environmental scientists and crime investigators now can more readily collect data on the spot.
Guido Verbeck, left, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has created yet another real-world solution: mobile mass spectrometers that support chemical analysis in the field. Whether mounted in an electric hybrid car or carried as a backpack, the equipment can be used to more readily — and accurately — check air quality and provide a list of chemicals in the air.
“We are creating portable mass spectrometers that can be fitted onto vehicles for environmental research or transported for use at crime scenes,” says Verbeck, who also collaborates with researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Bioscience, UT Southwestern and the University of Liverpool. “This helps scientists and researchers collect data on the spot in real time, eliminating the need to revisit the site. Portable mass spectrometers will also be cheaper, making them available to scientific fields that have limited budgets.”
In December 2015, Verbeck and a group of his students traveled to UNT’s sub-Antarctic field station in Chile. The group brought along a 40-pound mobile mass spectrometer that allowed them to take air and water samples throughout the region — the first-ever recorded data set. The data is important because the areas tested have not yet been impacted by humans. Industry, mainly tourism and energy, is expected to begin moving into the area over the next several years. Verbeck’s readings, tagged with GPS, provide a baseline for future researchers to revisit the area and evaluate industry affects.
Verbeck has created and patented modified parts for mass spectrometers for private companies like Inficon and 1st Detect. He also patented his nanomanipulator in 2012.