Mass Spectrometer Analysis Results
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Drilling Platform exploded and sank, causing the largest oil spill yet recorded. Samples from the oil spill were collected by Louisiana USGS scientists Greg Swayze and Charlie Demas and sent for analysis in Menlo Park, CA. After undergoing initial separation by the liquid chromatograph column, nitrogen evaporation, then final separation by the mass spectrometer, the final step is to create a chemical fingerprint for the sample using the mass spectrometer's readout. The mass spectrometer submits a read-out similar to the one pictured, which is not of the oil samples. Each spike represents a certain compound. By identifying the unique combination of compounds, a chemical "fingerprint" may be obtained. The Organic Geochemistry Lab at Menlo Park is compiling a fingerprint library of petroleum products, which can be used to ascertain whether or not the tar balls resulted from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.