A front-end instrument, the laser ablation ion funnel, was developed, which would ionize rock and soil samples in the ambient Martian atmosphere, and efficiently transport the product ions into a mass spectrometer for in situ analysis.

Laser ablation creates elemental ions from a solid with a high-power pulse within ambient Mars atmospheric conditions. Ions are captured and focused with an ion funnel into a mass spectrometer for analysis. The electrodynamic ion funnel consists of a series of axially concentric ring-shaped electrodes whose inside diameters (IDs) decrease over the length of the funnel. DC potentials are applied to each electrode, producing a smooth potential slope along the axial direction. Two radio-frequency (RF) AC potentials, equal in amplitude and 180° out of phase, are applied alternately to the ring electrodes. This creates an effective potential barrier along the inner surface of the electrode stack. Ions entering the funnel drift axially under the influence of the DC potential while being restricted radially by the effective potential barrier created by the applied RF. The net result is to effectively focus the ions as they traverse the length of the funnel.

This work was done by Paul V. Johnson and Robert P. Hodyss of Caltech, and Keqi Tang and Richard D. Smith of PNNL for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47638

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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