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Analytic technique by which chemical substances are identified by sorting gaseous ions by mass using electric and magnetic fields. A mass spectrometer uses electrical means to detect the sorted ions, while a mass spectrograph uses photographic or other nonelectrical means; either device is a mass spectroscope. The process is widely used to measure masses and relative abundances of different isotopes, to analyze products of a separation by liquid or gas chromatography, to test vacuum integrity in high-vacuum equipment, and to measure the geological age of minerals.
Variants of MASS SPECTROMETRY
mass spectrometry or mass spectroscopy
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mass spectrometry, visit Britannica.com.