Fast atom bombardment

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ThermoQuest AvantGarde MS with quadrupole detector and FAB/EI source.

Fast atom bombardment (FAB) is an ionization technique used in mass spectrometry in which a beam of high energy atoms strikes a surface to create ions.[1][2][3] It was developed by Michael Barber at the University of Manchester.[4] When a beam of high energy ions is used instead of atoms, the method is known as liquid secondary ion mass spectrometry.[5][6] The material to be analyzed is mixed with a non-volatile chemical protection environment called a matrix and is bombarded under vacuum with a high energy (4000 to 10,000 electron volts) beam of atoms. The atoms are typically from an inert gas such as argon or xenon. Common matrices include glycerol, thioglycerol, 3-nitrobenzyl alcohol (3-NBA), 18-crown-6 ether, 2-nitrophenyloctyl ether, sulfolane, diethanolamine, and triethanolamine. This technique is similar to secondary ion mass spectrometry and plasma desorption mass spectrometry.

How it works[edit]

FAB is a relatively low fragmentation (soft) ionization technique and produces primarily intact protonated molecules denoted as [M + H]+ and deprotonated molecules such as [M - H]. The nature of its ionization mechanism is similar to electrospray ionization and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI).[7]


The first example of the practical application of this technique was the elucidation of the amino acid sequence of the oligopeptide efrapeptin D. This contained a variety of very unusual amino acid residues.[8] The sequence was shown to be: N-acetyl-L-pip-AIB-L-pip-AIB-AIB-L-leu-beta-ala-gly-AIB-AIB-L-pip-AIB-gly-L-leu-L-iva-AIB-X. PIP = pipecolic acid, AIB = alpha-amino-isobutyric acid, leu = leucine, iva = isovaline, gly = glycine. This is a potent inhibitor of the mitochodrial ATPase activity.


  1. ^ Morris HR, Panico M, Barber M, Bordoli RS, Sedgwick RD, Tyler A (1981). "Fast atom bombardment: a new mass spectrometric method for peptide sequence analysis". Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 101 (2): 623–31. doi:10.1016/0006-291X(81)91304-8. PMID 7306100.  edit
  2. ^ Barber, Michael; Bordoli, Robert S.; Elliott, Gerard J.; Sedgwick, R. Donald; Tyler, Andrew N. (1982). "Fast Atom Bombardment Mass Spectrometry". Analytical Chemistry 54 (4): 645A–657A. doi:10.1021/ac00241a817. ISSN 0003-2700.  edit
  3. ^ Barber M, Bordoli RS, Sedgewick RD Tyler AN (1981). "Fast atom bombardment of solids (F.A.B.): a new ion source for mass spectrometry". Journal of the Chemical Society, Chemical Communications (7): 325–7. doi:10.1039/C39810000325.  edit
  4. ^ Barber, M.; Bordoli, R.S.; Sedgewick, R.D.; Tyler, A.N., Nature, 293, 1981, pp270-275
  5. ^ Dominic M. Desiderio (14 November 1990). Mass Spectrometry of Peptides. CRC Press. pp. 174–. ISBN 978-0-8493-6293-4. 
  6. ^ De Pauw, E.; Agnello, A.; Derwa, F. (1991). "Liquid matrices for liquid secondary ion mass spectrometry-fast atom bombardment: An update". Mass Spectrometry Reviews 10 (4): 283–301. doi:10.1002/mas.1280100402. ISSN 0277-7037.  edit
  7. ^ Tomer KB (1989). "The development of fast atom bombardment combined with tandem mass spectrometry for the determination of biomolecules". Mass Spectrometry Reviews 8 (6): 445–82. doi:10.1002/mas.1280080602.  edit
  8. ^ Bullough,D.A., Jackson C.G.,Henderson, P.J.F., Cottee, F.H.,Beechey,R.B. and Linnett, P.E. Biochemistry International (1981) 4, 543-549


  • Caprioli, R. M. (1990). Continuous-flow fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry. New York: Wiley. ISBN 0-471-92863-1.