Blog Articles

5 Ways to Make Infrared Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry More Approachable

Usama Attiq
Chemistry
Higher Education
Teaching with Labster

Introduction: Infrared Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry

Chemists use infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry tools to determine the structure of molecules and identify unknown molecules. Infrared spectroscopy can be helpful for the identification of types of chemical bonds present in a molecule. It does not determine the mass of the molecule. When light is passed through the substance, the atoms present in the molecules get excited. With the help of this excitation, infrared spectroscopy is used to determine the chemical bonds between these atoms. In infrared spectroscopy, the infrared light of the electromagnetic spectrum is used. Infrared light has a frequency lower and wavelength longer than visible light.

Mass spectrometry is an effective tool to determine the mass of a molecule. In mass spectrometry, the molecules are ionized and mass can be detected through any fragment formation. With the help of mass spectrometry, we can determine the molecules' mass, structure, and formula. Therefore, it is an effective analytical tool for identifying the mass-to-charge ratio of one or more substances present in a given sample. The mass-to-charge ratio can be used to determine the molecular weight of the molecules present in the substance.

Some aspects of infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry can be challenging for students to learn. At Labster, we compiled all the difficulties that students experience while learning infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. We also provide five different ways to make infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry easier and simpler for students to understand. Ultimately, we will convince you why a virtual lab simulation is important for teachers to explain difficult topics to their students. 

the electromagnetic spectrum

Figure: An image of electromagnetic spectrum from Labster theory. 

Why infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry can be tricky to learn

There are three main reasons that can make infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry challenging for students to learn.

5 ways to make infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry a more approachable topic to understand

As we know the reasons that make the topic infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry difficult for students. There are five ways to make this topic simpler for students to understand.

It feels abstract

In infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry, we learn about the molecules' chemical bonds and mass. Several abstract terms used in this topic can be difficult for students to learn. For instance, atoms get excited by infrared light. Atoms are very small particles, so students cannot see them. Therefore, they are not able to see the process of excitation and de-excitation of atoms. Due to this reason, students may find it hard to learn about infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry.

Complex components of the mass spectrometer

 The mass spectrometer has several components with different functions. It consists of a filament, electrode, accelerator slits, ion source, magnetic field, electric field, and detector. All these components possess several functions that students need to be memorized. Students do not like learning infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry because they find it a boring and time-consuming topic.

It's heavy content

Since infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry are two different techniques. There are two different devices used for this purpose. An infrared spectrometer is a different device and function different from a mass spectrometer. Therefore, it is difficult for students to learn infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry.

People behind that science

J.J. Thomson was a British physicist who constructed the first mass spectrometer in 1912. At that time, the mass spectrometer was called a parabola spectrograph. Through a mass spectrometer, he discovered the mass of nonradioactive isotopes. Thomson made a device to determine the mass-to-charge ratio of molecules. In this device, the positive ions are produced through the gases present in the cathode rays. Both the magnetic field and electric field deflect the positive ions towards the photographic plate depending on their mass. The diverging of the positive rays helps to determine the mass to charge ratio of the molecules.

Interesting facts about infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry

Infrared spectroscopy is the study of the interaction of infrared light with molecules. There are three main ways through which we can analyze the molecules; reflection, emission, and absorption. An infrared spectrometer is a device that is used for this purpose. Infrared spectroscopy is used for the determination of molecules in both organic and inorganic compounds. The infrared spectrum is an important graph that is plotted between the infrared light absorbed and the wavelength. Infrared spectroscopy is effective because it can detect the frequencies of infrared light absorbed by the molecules. Three types of samples are used in infrared spectroscopy; solid, liquid, and gas.

Mulling agents are used for crushing the solid material to make the sample for infrared spectroscopy.

Two salt plates are used to keep the liquid material in it.

The sample of gas has a long wavelength.

Mass spectrometry is a technique to determine the mass of the molecules of the sample. A mass spectrometer is used to convert molecules to the ions state. The ions can be helpful because they can easily show deflections in magnetic and electric fields. There are three main components used in a mass spectrometer

Ion source

Mass analyzer

Detector

The ion source is effective to convert the atoms into the ion state. It usually converts the ions into cations after losing the electrons.

The mass analyzer can separate the ions according to their mass to charge ratio.

The detector can help to measure the mass of the separate ions and create a graph.

Applications of infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry

It is important for students to learn about the applications of infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. It helps the students to understand the topic more appropriately.

Infrared spectroscopy is used to determine whether a given sample of compounds has identical organic substances or not.

Another application of infrared spectrometry is to detect the impurities of the substance. For that, the infrared spectrum of the sample is compared with the standard spectrum.

Infrared spectroscopy is effective because it can provide the quantity of the substance in pure form and a mixture of compounds.

On the other hand, mass spectrometry is an efficient technique for the identification, structural description, and molecular mass of organic compounds.

Another important application of mass spectrometry is the detection of biomarkers. So, it is best for the profiling analysis in cancer patients. It can also use for the identification of several diseases.

Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that has beneficial properties in the forensic lab. Mass spectrometry is used for the identification of very few detectable traces. Moreover, it is also used for the detection of toxins present in the blood sample and also poison doses present in the blood sample of the victim. 

Identification of an Organic Compound by Spectroscopy

Figure: An image shows the possible structures with formula C3H6O from Labster virtual laboratory of identification of an organic compound by spectroscopy

Seeing is believing

Color diagrams make the learning of infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry a more interesting topic for students to understand. The diverse colors make the topic more attractive, so students can learn and understand the topic with interest. Virtual diagrams can help with better understanding because these images can be memorized easier. In infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry, the students have to understand the components of the device, its functions, and the identification of molecules. These can be easily done with the help of color images.

The image presented below shows the infrared spectrometer scheme to explain the graph between the temperature and wavelength. It is an important component to be learned in infrared spectroscopy. Students will understand the graph more effectively when they see the color diagram of the graph. 

Infrared Spectroscopy Virtual Lab

Figure: An image shows the infrared spectrometer scheme from Labster virtual laboratory of infrared spectroscopy

Use of virtual lab simulation

Learning through virtual lab simulation is an advanced way to explain difficult topics like infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. At Labster, we provide advanced 3D simulations that havegamification elements likestorytelling and a scoring system. These features can help teachers to convey the topic to their students.

Students can understand infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry through Labster simulations on infrared spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy the race of the fastest fragment, and identification of organic compound by spectroscopy. After using these simulations, students can learn about the theory behind infrared spectroscopy, the analysis of three basic components of infrared spectroscopy, the preparation of samples for mass spectrometer, the theory and structure of mass spectrometer, and applying of theories of mass spectrometry and infrared spectroscopy to identify carbon NMR and Proton NMR.

 infrared spectroscopy GIF

Check out Labster's infrared spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy the race of the fastest fragment, and identification of organic compound by spectroscopy simulations here, or get in touch to find out how you can start using virtual lab simulations with your students.

Signup for a 30-Day Free Trial of Labster