||Using a novel approach, researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have for the first time been able to use mass spectrometry to analyse various saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons directly from solutions. Ionising the constituent molecules of a hydrocarbon sample for detection using mass spectrometry has not been easy till date as hydrocarbons do not tend to lose or gain electrons to form ions. Using the novel technique — laser-assisted paper spray ionisation mass spectrometry — the research team led by Prof. T. Pradeep from the institute’s Department of Chemistry could detect various hydrocarbons, importantly, paraffin oil contamination in coconut oil samples. Though it is common knowledge that vegetable oils are adulterated, the extent of contamination with paraffin oil was as much as 10%. “It was shocking to see such high levels of mineral oil contamination in coconut oil meant for cooking,” says Prof. Pradeep.