Detection of biological particles in ambient air using Bio-Aerosol Mass Spectrometry

Erica L. McJimpsey, Paul T. Steele, Keith R. Coffee, David P. Fergenson, Vincent J. Riot, Bruce W. Woods, Eric E. Gard, Matthias Frank, Herbert J. Tobias, Carlito B Lebrilla

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations


The Bio-Aerosol Mass Spectrometry (BAMS) system is an instrument used for the real time detection and identification of biological aerosols. Particles are drawn from the atmosphere directly into vacuum and tracked as they scatter light from several continuous wave lasers. After tracking, the fluorescence of individual particles is excited by a pulsed 266nm or 355nm laser. Molecules from those particles with appropriate fluorescence properties are subsequently desorbed and ionized using a pulsed 266nm laser. Resulting ions are analyzed in a dual polarity mass spectrometer. During two field deployments at the San Francisco International Airport, millions of ambient particles were analyzed and a small but significant fraction were found to have fluorescent properties similar to Bacillus spores and vegetative cells. Further separation of non-biological background particles from potential biological particles was accomplished using laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry. This has been shown to enable some level of species differentiation in specific cases, but the creation and observation of higher mass ions is needed to enable a higher level of specificity across more species. A soft ionization technique, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) is being investigated for this purpose. MALDI is particularly well suited for mass analysis of biomolecules since it allows for the generation of molecular ions from large mass compounds that would fragment under normal irradiation. Some of the initial results from a modified BAMS system utilizing this technique are described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2006
EventChemical and Biological Sensing VII - Kissimmee, FL, United States
Duration: Apr 19 2006Apr 21 2006


OtherChemical and Biological Sensing VII
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityKissimmee, FL


  • Bioaerosols
  • Fluorescence
  • Mass spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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