A model of mass spectrometry 


Use this modelling activity to explore your student's understanding of the process of fragmentation in mass spectrometry.

Sign up to our Analytical chemistry online CPD course for 133 further techniques and development support like this.

This resource is a discussion scenario that runs in sequence to help with teaching mass spectrometry. The course has nine topics including classifying materials to advanced instrumental techniques and will take nine hours to complete.

You can find further details about the structure of the course in the additional information below.

Visit our teacher CPD pages to view other courses.

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Where are students most likely to go wrong?


As mentioned in the animation, once students have worked out the individual letters that make up the word, they are likely to simply have a guess and end up with MATE or MEAT instead of TEAM. The ordering of the letters is important and can be worked out by looking at the other letter 'peaks'.


I understand the activity. But why would I use it and not simply use proper mass spectra?


The fact that TEAM, MATE and MEAT give rise to such similar peaks enables you to take the discussion into lots of different directions such as looking at isomers, connectivity in organic molecules etc. The activity is also fun and, for some students who may find chemistry challenging or be inclined to disengage, this can be a great way to spark interest.


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Our Analytical chemistry course not only provides you with the core content you need to teach, but also takes you through common student misconceptions, experimental techniques and interesting stimuli for discussion and developing each topic further.

After working through the full course, you will be able to:

  • understand the core ideas in analytical chemistry
  • explain the progression and development of analytical chemistry through secondary education
  • identify common misconceptions in students' thinking and explore how these misconceptions can be addressed
  • access a wide variety of resources to help students learn about analytical chemistry in an engaging manner
  • recognise areas of overlap and develop links between analytical chemistry and other aspects of chemistry

Thank you to Joe Ogborn and Dorothy Warren for authoring this course.