Acronyms in Mass Spectrometry - Spectroscopy columnist Ken Busch once again brings readers his comprehensive list of common acronyms used in the field of mass spectrometry. - Spectroscopy
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Acronyms in Mass Spectrometry
Spectroscopy columnist Ken Busch once again brings readers his comprehensive list of common acronyms used in the field of mass spectrometry.


Special Issues


The list of acronyms in mass spectrometry published regularly here reflects the writings and conversations of mass spectrometrists, who use a variety of acronyms to describe particular experiments or applications. New applications, with new audiences, bring new technical jargon. Shorthand-speak becomes common, and practitioners in one subdiscipline become more isolated, even in conversation, from their colleagues in other areas. This isolation is magnified by a dynamic lexicon that is as complex as it is specialized. Instruments are described by acronyms, along with ionization methods, analysis methods, experimental protocols, and data interpretation and presentation schemes. An environmental mass spectrometrist assesses results from an SIM GC–MS BTEX analysis. A carbohydrate mass spectrometrist works with data from PSD MALDI TOF using DHB matrices. Proteomics folks debate MOWSE scores from high-throughput PMF, all part of an NDA. To each group, these terms reflect their own ROOMS. Researchers enjoy coining acronyms as much as the federal government, and our acronym-laden language can be equally intimidating. This compilation may aid in our translations, both to others as well as for ourselves.

Some acronyms are protected trademarks but might not be noted as such in the literature. Companies coin acronyms, words, and descriptive phrases with the same gleeful abandon as individual researchers. I have not included vendor-specific acronyms or trademarks unless they seem to have entered common use. I also have resisted the inclusion of terms that only appear to be acronyms, but which are either unduly contorted or capitalized for the sake of appearance. Inclusion of an acronym in this list is not an explicit endorsement of its use by the community; the nomenclators eventually make their judgments, but the community itself enforces a certain discipline. Immortality in the annals of science is not to be gained by coining a new acronym; a truly useful acronym quickly becomes so widely used that the originator often is forgotten. Our search for fame (not FAME) then, leaves us only with eponomy, a topic that has merited specific academic study, although not yet in the field of mass spectrometry. Lastly, do not confuse an acronym with a shorthand for a chemical formula, or shorthand for a structure. Acronyms that appear in reference titles cannot be deciphered in context, and so will appear in this compilation.

For some recent additions to the acronym list, a short description is provided, along with a recent (not necessarily the first) reference. These vignettes should encourage you to visit the reference given for a more complete description. Acronyms are listed here in alphabetical order. Most acronyms are composed of upper-case letters, but a few are traditionally given as sequences of lower-case letters, or a mixture, to the consternation of spell checkers, editors, and indexers everywhere. The debate between GC–MS and GC/MS was settled long ago, but the community today doesn't seem to remember how or why the decision was made. I resist the urge to revisit the arguments. If your favorite acronym or abbreviation is missing from the list, please contact me.

A Anion
ACMS Asilomar Conference on Mass Spectrometry
ADC Analog-to-digital converter
ADO Average dipole orientation
AE Appearance energy
AEI Associated Electric Industries, a past MS manufacturer
AGC Automatic gain control
AGHIS All-glass-heated-inlet system
AMS Accelerator mass spectrometry; Adolescent mass spectrometrists
amu atomic mass unit
AN Auger neutralization; Application note (in JASMS)
ANP 2-Amino-5-nitropyridine (a MALDI matrix)
ANZSMS Australia and New Zealand Society for Mass Spectrometry
AP Appearance potential; Atmospheric pressure
APCI Atmospheric pressure chemical ionization
API Atmospheric pressure ionization
APPI Atmospheric-pressure photoionization
ARMS Angle-resolved mass spectrometry
ASGDIMS Atmospheric-sampling glow discharge ionization mass spectrometry
ASMS American Society for Mass Spectrometry
ASTM American Society for the Testing of Materials
ATT 6-Aza-2-thiothymine (a MALDI matrix)
AVS Accelerating voltage scan; American Vacuum Society
B Magnetic sector mass analyzer, magnetic field; magnetic sector field strength or flux density
BAMS Bioaerosol mass spectrometry

Individual cells of airborne Bacillus are differentiated based upon the reproducible spectral differences observed after laser ionization. Both positive and negative ion mass spectra are measured in the range to about 200 Da. Instrumental considerations for method development for real- time air monitoring are described. See: D.P. Fergenson, M.E. Pitesky, H.J. Tobias, P.T. Steele, G.A. Czerwieniec, S.C. Russell, C.B. Lebrilla, J.M. Horn, K.R. Coffee, A. Srivastava, S.P. Pillai, M.T.P. Shih, H.L. Hall, A.J. Ramponi, J.T. Chang, R.G. Langlois, P.L. Estacio, R.T. Hadley, M. Frank, and E.E. Gard, Anal. Chem. 76, 373–378 (2004).
BAT Best anode temperature
BDE Bond dissociation energy
B/E Linked scan for product ions in MS-MS
B2E Linked scan for parent ions in MS-MS
BEoQ A reverse-geometry sector instrument followed by an octupole collision cell followed by a quadrupole mass filter
BEqQ A reverse-geometry sector instrument followed by a collision quadrupole followed by a quadrupole mass filter
BEMS Biomedical and Environmental Mass Spectrometry (a former MS journal)
BET Best emitter temperature
BIAMS™ Biomolecular interaction analysis mass spectrometry
BIRD Blackbody infrared radiative dissociation
BMS Biomedical Mass Spectrometry, Biological Mass Spectrometry
BNG Bradbury–Nelson gate

The use of the Bradbury–Nelson gate as an ion modulation device and encoder for an ion beam is described in conjunction with its use in a Hadamard-transform time-of-flight mass spectrometer. See: O.K. Yoon, I.A. Zuleta, J R. Kimmel, M.D. Robbins, and R.N. Zare, J. Amer. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 18, 1888–1901 (2005).
BTEX Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene
C Cation
CA Collisional activation
CAD Collisionally activated decomposition
CAF Chemically assisted fragmentation
CCA α-Cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (a MALDI matrix)
CDEM Continuous-dynode electron multiplier
CDNT Conformation-dependent neutralization theory


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