NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a high-precision electric gate (HPEG) time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer to study the magnetosphere of Jupiter and Europa. The HPEG can provide a precise start pulse when an ion enters the TOF section of an Ion Mass Spectrometer (IMS) to provide a very high mass resolution capability. The design uses a row of very thin, parallel aligned wires that are pulsed in sequence so the ion can pass through the gap of two parallel plates, which are biased to prevent passage of the ion.
The HPEG for a TOF mass spectrometer offers several advantages over the current state of the art. It is precise enough to get a mass resolution of greater than 10,000 M/dm when used in conjunction with a TOF mass spectrometer. It’s also small and light, making it ideal for spaceflight or portable mass-spec applications. In addition, it can be built on a chip, which makes it inexpensive to mass produce. For spaceflight applications, it can also act as a velocity filter. For lower-precision applications (M/dM ~1000), it can act alone as a tiny mass spectrometer.
Potential applications include chromatography and analytical measurements.