A modified ion-detector/ data-acquisition system has been devised to increase the dynamic range of a time-of-flight mass spectrometer (TOF-MS) that, previously, included a microchannel-plate detector and a data-acquisition system based on counting pulses and time-tagging them by use of a time-to-digital converter (TDC). The dynamic range of the TOF-MS was limited by saturation of the microchannel-plate detector, which can handle no more than a few million counts per second. The modified system includes (1) a combined microchannel plate/discrete ion multiplier and (2) a hybrid data-acquisition system that simultaneously performs analog current or voltage measurements and multianode single-ion-pulse-counting time-of-flight measurements to extend the dynamic range of a TDC into the regime in which a mass peak comprises multiple ions arriving simultaneously at the detector. The multianode data are used to determine, in real time, whether the detector is saturated. When saturation is detected, the data-acquisition system selectively enables circuitry that simultaneously determines the ion-peak intensity by measuring the time profile of the analog current or voltage detector-output signal.

This work was done by William D. Burton, Jr.; J. Albert Schultz; Valentine Vaughn; Michael McCully; Steven Ulrich; and Thomas F. Egan of Ionwerks, Inc., for Kennedy Space Center.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

William D. Burton, Jr.
Ionwerks, Inc.
2472 Bolsover, Suite 255
Houston, TX 77005
Phone: (713) 522-9880
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to KSC-12619, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.