Soft chemical-ionisation mass-spectrometry (SCIMS) is an exquisitely sensitive analytical technique with applications to health, the environment and security that are vital to the EU. However, the recent, rapid and widespread adoption of this technique has caught Europe unprepared. The resultant shortage in analytical chemical expertise has created an urgent need for highly skilled young researchers to be trained in the wide variety of SCIMS methods. IMPACT addresses this skills’ shortage by establishing an intersectoral and multidisciplinary SCIMS training network. IMPACT also brings cohesion to the fragmented SCIMS research and development activities within the EU.

To date, most SCIMS developments have been driven not by users but by manufacturers, whose main focus has been on increased sensitivity. However, just as crucial is improved selectivity. Indeed, many users consider improved selectivity to be the key to taking SCIMS technology to a whole new level. Instead of private and public sectors working independently, we need a fresh, intersectoral approach. IMPACT will achieve this through intersectoral work packages and multidisciplinary research projects. In place of major and costly changes in instrumental design, IMPACT’s projects will focus on developing new methods for improved chemical specificity by manipulating ion chemistry. Hence, IMPACT’s fresh approach will produce a step change in SCIMS instrumentation to deliver both economic and societal benefit to the EU. Specifically, IMPACT will train ten early-stage researchers (ESRs) within an integrated partnership of commercial, governmental and academic organisations, with planned secondments, advanced training courses, interactive complementary skills workshops, and ESR-centred research meetings. IMPACT will therefore provide Europe with both a world-class capability in SCIMS technology and a cohort of highly trained researchers who will bring the benefits of that technology to citizens across the EU.

Research objectives

Three main research objectives (ROs) are associated with the network that will focus the direction of IMPACT’s research programme:

RO1: a greater experimental and theoretical understanding of underlying ion–molecule reactions so that knowledge is gained as to how ion chemistry can be manipulated to enhance or diminish key chemical processes; this will involve research on dopants, reduced electric fields, switching and multiple reagent ions, sources, effects of humidity, pressure and temperature, etc.

RO2: application of SCIMS to address topical scientific issues through cutting-edge individual research projects in three key disciplines – environmental science, bioscience and homeland security. These will be valuable for highlighting requirements for an improved understanding of ion chemistry and chemical separation, and for providing an ideal route for testing proposed schemes for improving selectivity.

RO3: Incorporation of protocols and methods into instrumental design and development.

These ROs will be achieved by fully integrating projects, partners and ESRs into a coherent research programme which is innovative because it is focused on the understanding, use and improvement of SCIMS technologies, whilst producing new scientific knowledge in applications to health, the environment and security.

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Work packages (WP)


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Research projects

ESR Project title Host institute


Scientific underpinning of ion–molecule processes and their use as analytical probes for SCIMS



Advanced evaluation of product ion branching ratios in the presence of water vapour



Measures for improved substance identification



Production of thermal desorption unit and electronic devices for improved selectivity



Homeland security applications: improved selectivity for IMS-MS and limits of detection



Biogenic volatile organic compounds: characterisation in various (agro)ecosystems



OH reactivity and other integrative techniques using SCIMS



Applications of SCIMS techniques in biosciences



SCIMS for metabolic profiling in health and disease



Improved breath and skin emanation sampling techniques


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IMPACT’s instrumental details

IMPACT addresses the need to train a new generation of analytical scientists in the creative, entrepreneurial and innovative skills necessary for the use, development and leadership of soft chemical-ionisation mass-spectrometry (SCIMS). This training will equip these scientists to tackle current and future analytical challenges in different disciplines and sectors and enable Europe to fully realise the scientific, societal and economic benefits associated with such technologies. Here SCIMS refers to instruments that use ions as analytical probes based on the emerging technologies of ion mobility spectrometry (IMS), proton transfer reaction (PTR), selected reagent ion (SRI) and selected ion flow tube (SIFT). These are fast becoming the technologies of choice for the real-time and rapid detection of chemicals in low concentrations, often tackling strong EU societal and scientific needs. However, all are limited in terms of their selectivity. A major goal of this network is to propose, test and develop new methods of improved selectivity to be incorporated into the next generation of commercial SCIMS instruments. IMPACT’s research activities will thus create new knowledge and ideas leading to a step change in SCIMS instrumentation which will result in commercial growth and new applications of benefit to society.

The comprehensive involvement of scientists and engineers from academic, governmental and industrial organisations will result in a novel research programme that will provide ESRs with the necessary skills to direct, develop, propose and lead future analytical research activities using state-of-the-art IMS/IMS-MS (including field asymmetric ion mobility spectrometry, FAIMS), PTR-MS, SRI-MS and SIFT-MS (including sift ion flow drift tube mass spectrometry, SIFDT-MS) instruments. Together with an increased underpinning of the science involved and an improved understanding of how to manipulate ion chemistry for improved selectivity, the individual research projects provide pathways to take SCIMS technologies to a completely new level. Thus IMPACT should have a significant influence on the development and use of SCIMS within its lifetime and beyond.

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