Applied Mass Spectrometry in Occupational Allergen Monitoring and in Biomass to Bio-fuels/Chemicals Research
This research program utilizes our established mass spectrometric facilities to undertake fundamental research in two project themes: (1) To develop suitable mass spectrometric (MS) methods to identify and measure airborne allergenic proteins in shellfish processing plants, and mould spores in schools and (2) To address analytical challenges in renewable, second generation bio-fuels/ chemicals research in the area of pyrolytic conversion of biomass.
Airborne allergens are of particular importance in Atlantic Canada where occupational crab asthma is prevalent in many plants and there is an urgent need for allergen monitoring. Indoor mould is associated with respiratory health effects and allergies. There are no reliable methods sensitive enough to identify airborne moulds or their allergenic proteins. Identification of bioactive proteins will be performed and target proteins characterized by peptide mass fingerprinting and de novo sequenced using tandem MS. A unique surrogate peptide for each allergen will be selected for each target protein for quantitation purposes.
Technologies for the pyrolytic conversion of biomass to bio-fuels and chemicals have recently received increased interest from the scientific community. This renewable, carbon-neutral energy source or chemical feedstock has the potential to displace petroleum-derived fuels. However, the pyrolysis oil is a complex mixture of a broad range of organics belonging to different product groups. The complex composition of the oil is due to the large number of reactions taking place when pyrolysing the main components of the biomass feedstock (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin). To gain insights into the molecular composition of pyrolysis oil and its feedstock, our team will develop robust MS-based methods to rapidly screen common biomass feedstocks and to identify unwanted secondary reactions/products. Finally, microwave-assisted pyrolysis will be investigated as an alternative to conventional pyrolysis heating. Thermochemical biorefinery research is particularly important for Canada. We have a major stake given our enormous wealth of renewable biomass.