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The world's leading PTR-MS company

Providing ultra-sensitive solutions for real-time trace gas analysis since 1998


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Training the experts of tomorrow

IONICON is training Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) and supports them throughout their PhD studies and beyond. We see it as our responsibility to pass on knowledge to a young generation of scientists and to bring the skills of Experienced Researchers (ERs) to perfection. 

Our Mission in Marie Curie Actions

The training of young scientists has always been of particular importance for IONICON. We frequently give diploma and PhD students the opportunity to perform research at our facilities and be trained by our PTR-MS experts. Several funding programs help us to extend this mission and make sure that also in the future we will be able to contribute to develop a diversified international PTR-MS elite. 

H2020-MSCA-ITN-2015 "IMPACT"

Executive summary

Soft chemical-ionization mass-spectrometry (SCIMS) is an exquisitely sensitive analytical technique with applications to health, the environment and security that are vital to the EU. However, the recent, rapid and widespread adoption of this technique has caught Europe unprepared. The resultant shortage in analytical chemical expertise has created an urgent need for highly skilled young researchers to be trained in the wide variety of SCIMS methods. IMPACT addresses this skills’ shortage by establishing an intersectoral and multidisciplinary SCIMS training network. IMPACT also brings cohesion to the fragmented SCIMS research and development activities within the EU. To date, most SCIMS developments have been driven not by users but by manufacturers, whose main focus has been on increased sensitivity. However, just as crucial is improved selectivity. Indeed, many users consider improved selectivity to be the key to taking SCIMS technology to a whole new level. Instead of private and public sectors working independently, we need a fresh, intersectoral approach. IMPACT will achieve this through intersectoral work packages and multidisciplinary research projects. In place of major and costly changes in instrumental design, IMPACT’s projects will focus on developing new methods for improved chemical specificity by manipulating ion chemistry. Hence, IMPACT’s fresh approach will produce a step change in SCIMS instrumentation to deliver both economic and societal benefit to the EU. Specifically, IMPACT will train 10 ESRs within an integrated partnership of commercial, governmental and academic organisations, with planned secondments, 5 Advanced Training Courses, 7 interactive Complementary Skills Workshops, and 4 ESR Centred Research Meetings. IMPACT will therefore provide Europe with both a world-class capability in SCIMS technology and a cohort of highly trained researchers who will bring the benefits of that technology to citizens across the EU.


IONICON will recruit one ESR and be the host for various seconded ESRs from other beneficiaries of the IMPACT network. We will provide excellent research opportunities to all ESRs at our premises by giving them access to the latest instrumental developments in PTR-MS and novel add-ons. Within WP3 the recruited ESR will, in tight collaboration with our analytical experts, develop and exploit methods for increased selectivity in PTR-MS. Thus, in combination with the intensive and diversified training within IMPACT, the ESR will be able to complete an outstanding PhD and become a distinguished researcher.

Project details:

Name Ion–Molecule Processes for Analytical Chemistry Technologies
Acronym IMPACT
Type of funding European Project, H2020-MSCA-ITN-2015, GA no.: 674911
Duration 2016 - 2020
Project Website



Executive summary

The need for quantitative and fast identification of gaseous trace compounds in complex chemical matrices continuously pushes the limits of analytical chemistry in many areas of relevance to the EU, including food, health, the environment, and security. A relatively new broad-based and rapidly growing analytical technique, proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS), combines excellent chemical specification with ultra high detection sensitivity in real-time, but is only partially exploited owing to the lack of a focused research program in terms of its scientific fundamentals and applications, and to a lack of an intersectoral and interdisciplinary based forum for the exchange of ideas and best practice to further develop this technology.

The demand for PTR-MS operators is outstripping the supply of highly qualified chemists who cannot only use the technology, but who also have a broad background in analytical chemistry, capable of leading multidisciplinary research/commercial activities. There is an urgent need within Europe for the harmonized training of ESRs in analytical chemistry within many sectors and across many disparate scientific disciplines and applications. The overall goal of this multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary ITN is to train the next generation of analytical scientists in the skills necessary for the development and use of PTR-MS and other analytical technologies for the detection of gaseous trace compounds.

Our vision is to enhance our understanding of the crucial role these chemicals play in many complex chemical environments and the underpinning science needed to develop techniques addressing major analytical challenges. The network is intersectoral in nature combining commercial (both manufacturers and “end-users”), governmental and academic concerns using a range of state-of-the-art analytical techniques, to address a number of topical analytical issues in an interdisciplinary cooperative.


Supported by funding from the Commission, IONICON hosts two ESRs for three years each and offers other ESRs from the network to be seconded to our premises. All ESRs will be given excellent research opportunities in order to successfully complete their PhD studies and become highly skilled researchers. Furthermore, IONICON is responsible for WP5 "Homeland Security" of PIMMS, where novel methods of detecting explosives, chemical warfare agents and drugs with the help of PTR-MS, will be developed.

Project details:

Name Proton Ionization Molecular Mass Spectrometry
Acronym PIMMS
Type of funding European Project, FP7-PEOPLE-2011-ITN GA no.: 287382
Duration 2012 to 2016
Project Website



CLOUD-ITN and its successor CLOUD-TRAIN are two outstandingly successful training networks mainly carried out at CERN, which already led to two publications in the renowned journal "Nature".The CLOUD Marie Curie Initial Training Network is a multi-site network of 8 Ph.D. students and 2 post-docs at 9 partner institutions across Europe.

The CLOUD-TRAIN Marie Curie Initial Training Network is a multi-site network of 12 Ph.D. students and 3 post-docs at 10 partner institutions across Europe. The network investigates various aspects of the interactions of cosmic rays with aerosols and clouds, which bears on the possibility of a "solar indirect" contribution to climate change. Besides the individual research of the Ph.D. students and post-docs at their hosting institutions, the major focus of the network will be two sets of common experiments on ion-induced nucleation and ion-aerosol interaction carried out at CERN. These experiments are conducted at an aerosol chamber that is exposed to a CERN elementary particle beam where the effects of cosmic rays on aerosol and cloud formation can be efficiently simulated.

A comprehensive training program is set up for the network participants. Additional to the experiments at CERN, the trainees are brought together by several network training events such as annual summer schools and workshops. Here, courses and lectures by world leading experts are taught spanning from "aerosol chemistry and physics" in general to specialized sessions on subjects such as "ion-induced aerosol nucleation" or "influences of galactic cosmic rays on paleo-climate". The summer schools and workshops are scheduled in addition to the national PhD programs of their hosting institutions where a variety of courses is available to the network participants. The summer schools will include training on complementary skills such as "writing scientific publications", "preparing and presenting talks and seminars", "interaction with media" and "commercializing scientific results". At least one secondment will be conducted by each student in which the student visits another institution of the network to conduct specific research tasks there that will broaden their research experience and skills.


  • Seco, R., et al.: Volatile organic compounds in the western Mediterranean basin: urban and rural winter measurements during the DAURE campaign, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 4291-4306, doi:10.5194/acp-13-4291-2013, 2013. LINK
  • Seco, R., et al.: Volatile organic compounds in the western Mediterranean basin: urban and rural winter measurements during the DAURE campaign, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 4291-4306, doi:10.5194/acp-13-4291-2013, 2013 LINK
  • Jasper Kirkby, et al.: Role of sulphuric acid, ammonia and galactic cosmic rays in atmospheric aerosol nucleation, Nature 476, 429-433, 25 August 2011, doi:10.1038/nature10343. LINK
  • Seco, R., et al.: Contrasting winter and summer VOC mixing ratios at a forest site in the Western Mediterranean Basin: the effect of local biogenic emissions, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 13161-13179, doi:10.5194/acp-11-13161-2011, 2011. LINK
  • João Almeida, et al.: Molecular understanding of sulphuric acid–amine particle nucleation in the atmosphere,  Nature (2013), doi:10.1038/nature12663, Published online 06 October 2013. LINK

Project details:

Name Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets
Type of funding European Project, Marie Curie Initial Training Network
GA no.: 215072 (CLOUD-ITN)
and  316662 (CLOUD-TRAIN)
Duration 2008 until 2012 (CLOUD-ITN) and
2012 - 2016 (CLOUD-TRAIN)
Project Website (CLOUD-ITN) and (CLOUD-TRAIN)



Following the successful development of the first high sensitivity and high mass resolution PTR-TOF-MS, a consortium of three academic and two industrial partners committed themselves to advance this stunning technology and pave the way for applications in various scientific fields in the FP7-IAPP project "PTR-TOF".

Executive summary

The overall objective of this project is to link three leading European academic institutions, having expertise in "plant biology", "environmental science", and "food/food packaging" with two innovative SMEs through an intensive transfer-of-knowledge approach. This link will facilitate the application of the recently developed PTR-TOF instrument for various scientific pursuits and hence will speed up the device's time-to-market release.

The expected impact of this project is manifold and will lead to the following:

  • New scientific results in the research fields of plant biology, environmental science, and food sciences
  • Training of scientists to use PTR-TOF technology with the long term goal that they will continue to perform research with this technology
  • Development of an unprecedented, high resolution mass spectrometry technology (PTR-TOF) which is capable of detecting VOCs in real time
  • Direct testing of a PTR-TOF prototype at lead customers involving direct collaborations with the prototype developers
  • Formal distribution of results via the project's website and organized meetings


IONICON related results

  • S. Jürschik, et al.: Proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry for the sensitive and rapid real-time detection of solid high explosives in air and water, Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 398 (2010), 2813–2820. LINK
  • B. Agarwal, et al.: Use of proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry for the analytical detection of illicit and controlled prescription drugs at room temperature via direct headspace sampling, Anal Bioanal Chem (2011) 400, 2631–2639. LINK
  • B. Agarwal, et al.: Detection of isocyanates and polychlorinated biphenyls using proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry, Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom., 26 (2012), 983–989. LINK
  • P. Sulzer, et al.: Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry and the Unambiguous Real-Time Detection of 2,4,6 Trinitrotoluene, Anal. Chem. (2012). LINK
  • S. Jürschik, et al.: Rapid and facile detection of four "date rape drugs" in different beverages utilizing Proton-Transfer-Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS), Journal of Mass Spectrometry (2012) in print. LINK


Project details:

Name Proton Transfer Reaction - Time of Flight
Acronym FP7-IAPP "PTR-TOF"
Type of funding European Project, FP7-IAPP "PTR-TOF"
GA no.: 218065
Duration 2008 until 2012


Industrial CASE studentship

Together with Lancaster University we host, train and provide research opportunities for a PhD student from Lancaster in this project with the full title "On-line detection and diagnosis of plant damage and stress by herbivores and pathogens".

Executive summary

The aim of this project is to determine if it is possible to detect, diagnose and differentiate biotic and abiotic stresses in selected plant species. We have already shown that this is possible at the leaf-level in preliminary work using tomato (Laothawornkitkul et al, Environ. Sci. Technol., 22, 8433 - 8438, 2008) but not at the whole plant, glass house or field scales. We will use wheat and oilseed rape as examples of field grown crops, and strawberry, often grown in the field but increasingly grown as a protected crop in the UK. Aphids will be used as the model pest, together with Botrytis as a necrotrophic pathogen and powdery mildew as a biotroph. To facilitate this work we will use the state of the art technologies of proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) and proton transfer reaction - time of flight - mass spectrometry (PTR-TOF-MS) with gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) for compound verification where necessary. Initially experiments will be conducted at Lancaster University using PTR-MS and GC-MS. The student will then work at IONICON for 12 months, using the PTR-TOF 8000, to generate more detailed mass-specific data. Whilst the student is on placement at IONICON, opportunities will be sought for him to have knowledge exchange with experts in eddy covariance flux measurements at the University of Innsbruck, with a view to the possible extension of the work to the field scale. A comparison of profiles under controlled and field conditions will enable an assessment of how changing abiotic parameters impact upon the volatile profile of healthy, control plants compared to those challenged by biotic factors. 

Project details:

Name BBRSC Industrial CASE Studentship
Duration 2011 until 2015
Project Website