Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Chemistry

First Advisor

Christopher C. Mulligan


Portable mass spectrometry (MS) has become an area of interest due to the ability to conduct chemical analyses in native environments. These instruments have the potential to increase efficiency and analytical throughput via real-time experimentation, minimizing the need for sample transportation. One drive towards the development of fieldable mass spectrometers is the potential for coupling to novel ambient ionization methods (or “ambient MS”), which can generate spectral data at ambient conditions from unprepared or minimally prepared samples of interest. Since the first introduction of the desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) technique in 2004, a myriad of novel techniques have been reported and applied, such as paper spray ionization (PSI), direct analysis in real time (DART), filter cone spray ionization (FCSI), etc. These methods allow for diverse sample types to be processed, opening the door to a variety of impactful applications. Forensics and homeland security are fields that can benefit from portable instrumentation, creating quick analytical capabilities during a criminal investigation or public safety events. Though it has been observed that portable MS systems can identify samples such as drugs of abuse, chemical warfare agents (CWAs), and explosives in a range of sample matrices, other factors/criteria must be considered before implementing into standard procedural methods of evidence collection. A factor to consider, however, is the instrumentals performance during exposure to common environmental conditions. The effect of temperature, relative humidity and windspeed were tested on the FLIR Systems Griffin Atmospheric Inlet-Mass Spectrometer (AI-MS) 1.2, observing target detection, signal intensity and signal duration while implementing PSI-MS, a newer ambient MS method that employs disposable paper substrates for sample collection and processing. Trends were interpreted to determine optimal conditions for high instrument performance, as well as potential conditions that yield a negative impact on sample processing. Other criteria are of note, such as the recommendations provided by the Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) for generating instrumental methods for forensic evidence confirmation; these recommendations center on the need for a multi-method analytical scheme for producing a definitive identification with prosecutorial ramifications. Towards this, a platform for combining surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) and PSI-MS was developed to characterize the processing of authentic illicit drug analytes. A validation study was then performed, testing the overall reliability and accuracy of the dual methodology through a user blinded error rate study. Further, the potential admissibility of forensic drug evidentiary data produced from portable MS systems was examined, using the constraints of the Daubert or Frye standards for forensic evidence testimony as a guide. Overall, the efforts contained in this thesis seek to demonstrate the potential of portable mass spectrometry towards forensic/homeland security investigations.


Imported from Stelmack_ilstu_0092N_11834.pdf


Page Count


Available for download on Tuesday, March 10, 2026

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