A time-of-flight mass spectrometer (TOF-MS) like the one mentioned in the immediately preceding article has been retrofitted with an ionizer based on a surface spontaneous- desorption process. This ionizer includes an electron multiplier in the form of a microchannel plate (MCP). Relative to an ionizer based on a hot-filament electron source, this ionizer offers advantages of less power consumption and greater mechanical ruggedness. The current density and stability characteristics of the electron emission of this ionizer are similar to those of a filament based ionizer. In tests of various versions of this ionizer in the TOF-MS, electron currents up to 100 nA were registered. Currents of microamperes or more — great enough to satisfy requirements in most TOF-MS applications — could be obtained by use of MCPs different from those used in the tests, albeit at the cost of greater bulk. One drawback of this ionizer is that the gain of the MCP decreases as a function of the charge extracted thus far; the total charge that can be extracted over the operational lifetime is about 1 coulomb. An MCP in the ion-detector portion of the TOF-MS is subject to the same limitation.

This work was done by J. Albert Schultz 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:

Ionwerks Inc.
J. Albert Schultz
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-12607, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.