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#10 David E. Clemmer

The Power List 2021

Distinguished Professor & Robert and Marjorie Mann Chair of Chemistry, Indiana University, USA

Biggest breakthrough… The ability to measure charge (z) independently from mass-to-charge (m/z). All commercially available mass spectrometers have an upper limit (around a megadalton) that is ultimately limited by the resolution of m/z peaks. This limits the utility of mass spectrometers for the analysis of complex mixtures of large ions. In the last decade, Martin Jarrold, Evan Williams, and others have advanced charge detection methods and a new type of mass spectrometry – charge detection mass spectrometry (CDMS) has emerged. There are a lot of things with masses beyond a megadalton that will be interesting to measure (e.g., biological complexes, viruses and vaccines, as well as many other types of polymers and nanoparticles, including particles resulting from degradation of plastics). Full disclosure, in 2018 I helped Martin form a startup company – Megadalton Solutions – to move toward commercialization of CDMS techniques.

Advice? Keep an eye on the emerging area of accelerated chemistries in droplets. The changes that reagents experience as they interact within and on the surfaces of evaporating droplets appear to resemble aspects of enzymatic activity. The use of rapid and sensitive MS to detect these reactions, combined with learning algorithms, brings new strategies to the field of organic synthesis. It is still too soon to fully appreciate what impact this work will have but some of the early examples are truly breathtaking.

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