Insights from industry

An Introduction to SIFT-MS - a Combination of Ion Chemistry and Mass Spectrometry

insights from industryDaniel MilliganCTOSyft Technologies

In this interview, Daniel Milligan, the CTO at Syft Technologies, talks to AZoMaterials about SIFT-MS - a unique combination of ion chemistry and mass spectrometry.

Can you provide a little background on how Syft started and how it’s grown over the years?

Syft started a little over 20 years ago, spun out from a University research group – the one in which I did my PhD.

The initial focus was on SIFT-MS technology, with a desire to use it for medical applications. However, Syft shifted its focus away from purely research applications relatively early in its journey with the worker safety application that is now called ContainerSure. This has informed our approach to the world ever since, building solutions for people that leverage the unique capabilities of our technology.

We understand that Syft recently rebranded itself. Can you explain what motivated that change and what it means for the organization?

The rebranding was aligned with Syft’s 20th Anniversary and was really a way for the company to clarify it’s purpose, both internally and externally.

What is SIFT-MS, and what does real-time MS mean?

SIFT-MS is a unique combination of ion chemistry and mass spectrometry. By real-time mass spectrometry, we mean MS analysis without any chromatographic separation. If the sample changes, you see the change immediately. It’s really well suited for dynamic processes but also for analytes like ammonia, formaldehyde, etc., that aren’t readily compatible with chromatography. You get a view of the sample that isn’t changed by any preconcentration or column interactions.

Image Credit: ShutterStock/vchal

A huge challenge to any non-chromatographic technique is the specificity, identifying which compound is responsible for a specific signal in the MS. SIFT-MS approaches this with ion chemistry. We have extremely soft ionization, so the products are more closely tied to the analyte rather than being common fragments. Additionally, SIFT-MS has multiple rapidly switchable reagent ions, so we can get multiple orthogonal measurements of the compound to enhance confidence.

What industries and applications has Syft been involved with in the past?

Syft has always had a strong bias towards customers who are deploying an integrated solution, with the Syft instrumentation at the centre. Many of them have multiple instruments in the fleet and so apply the more traditional metrics of analytical instrumentation to real-time mass spectrometry, things like availability/uptime, instrument-to-instrument comparability, etc.

We’ve sold into markets with very demanding requirements, including semiconductor fabrication, airborne molecular contamination (AMC), fenceline monitoring on large industrial plants, and critical worker protection applications.

What are your core capabilities, and how are they different than your competitors?

As I indicated earlier, building solutions for our customers is one of our core capabilities at Syft. I think you can see this in the way we put our instruments and software together. It is about putting the best tool together to solve the critical problem.

This problem solving is important to us, too. It enables us to understand what our customers want and help them build their solution

The other thing I’d say is that we have a deep understanding of the ion chemistry we use. SIFT-MS is a combination of ion chemistry and mass spectrometry, and the combination is significantly more powerful than the sum of its parts.

These things combined, in my opinion, make Syft your best option if you are looking to solve hard analytical problems at scale. We bring the tools and a commitment to getting you the results you need.

Image Credit: ShutterStock/Yurchanka Siarhei

Can you tell me about how you’ve grown your customer base and any recent impacts made by SIFT-MS that you’re particularly proud of?

Since establishing its value within semiconductor, environmental, and worker safety workflows, Syft has experienced strong growth in the consumer goods, pharma / CDMO, and food, flavor & fragrances industries. 

We’re particularly proud of how SIFT-MS enabled an independent quality assurance organization called Valisure to more accurately characterize the benzene levels in dry shampoo than traditional methods during a safety study published this past November. SIFT-MS found benzene with 10-50X greater sensitivity than standard GC-based methods. 

These findings led to the voluntary recall of several dry shampoos that were previously on store shelves worldwide. We anticipate SIFT-MS making a similar impact in other consumer goods and health products. 

We understand that Syft is launching a new product at Pittcon 2023. What is new about this product compared to your previous platform, and what will the advancements mean for your customers?

Over the last 10 years Syft has invested significantly in innovating the SIFT-MS platform. The Syft Tracer, that will release at Pittcon, is the culmination of the past few years of development to address specific industry needs. It’s built to be robust, reliable, and industry scalable. We think that our customers will find it ready to slot into their workflows and be amazed by the significant improvement in time to data that results.

Image Credit: Syft Technologies

What does industry-scalable mean?

To Syft industry, scalable means that we aren’t just producing an instrument with theoretical capability but a tool to build a solution around. It’s stable, reliable, and robust and has the interconnects to build it into our customer’s processes easily. This really builds on our core DNA.

You will get the advantages of the full capability of a real-time MS with the ease of use that is often associated with far less capable equipment.

Why will the sensitivity gains you mentioned be important to your customers?

Sensitivity isn’t a big focus of the Syft Tracer, but sensitivity is such a great enabler that we had to bring some improvements here, too. Higher sensitivity means that you can achieve lower LODs or get the same performance with shorter ion counting times.

And with the introduction of automatic tuning routines, not only are the sensitivities higher from the factory, but they will stay higher for longer, too.

Do you anticipate innovating on this platform in the future?

Yes.The intention of this platform is to set a robust base for Syft to innovate solutions from.

Can you tell us about any other innovations that you have planned for 2023?

We expect a big step forward in the pharma analysis space, along with a big update to one of Syft’s core markets.

You’ll have to keep watching, but we are excited about what is to come.

About Daniel Milligan

Daniel Milligan is the CTO at Syft Technologies. He did his PhD with the Founding Professor of Syft, Prof. Murray McEwan and has over 25 years’ experience in ion chemistry and SIFT-MS.

About Syft Technologies

Syft Technologies, the pioneer of SIFT MS technology, is the leading supplier of high-throughput, real-time trace gas analysis instrumentation. Continually developed and proven over 20 years in high stakes commercial environments, you can be assured of operational robustness, speed and 24/7 worldwide support.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.


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