The shapes of waveforms generated by commercially available analytical separation devices, such as some types of mass spectrometers and differential mobility spectrometers are, in general, inadequate and result in resolution degradation in output spectra. A waveform generator was designed that would be able to circumvent these shortcomings. It is capable of generating an asymmetric waveform, having a peak amplitude as large as 2 kV and frequency of several megahertz, which can be applied to a capacitive load. In the original intended application, the capacitive load would consist of the drift plates in a differential-mobility spectrometer. The main advantage to be gained by developing the proposed generator is that the shape of the waveform is made nearly optimum for various analytical devices requiring asymmetric-waveform such as differential-mobility spectrometers. In addition, this waveform generator could easily be adjusted to modify the waveform in accordance with changed operational requirements for differential-mobility spectrometers.

Figure 1. The Waveform Generator would cause the capacitive load to be alternately(1) charged from the high-voltage power supply, then (2) discharged to ground.
The capacitive nature of the load is an important consideration in the design of the proposed waveform generator. For example, the design provision for shaping the output waveform is based partly on the principle that (1) the potential (V) on a capacitor is given by V = q/C, where C is the capacitance and q is the charge stored in the capacitor; and, hence (2) the rate of increase or decrease of the potential is similarly proportional to the charging or discharging current.

Figure 2. This Typical Output Waveform of the proposed waveform generator was simulated,assuming a design supply potential of 1 kV and a design frequency of 2 MHz.
The proposed waveform generator would comprise four functional blocks: a sine-wave generator, a buffer, a voltage shifter, and a high-voltage switch (see Figure 1). The sine-wave generator would include a pair of operational amplifiers in a feedback configuration, the parameters of which would be chosen to obtain a sinusoidal timing signal of the desired frequency. The buffer would introduce a slight delay (≈20 ns) but would otherwise leave the fundamental timing signal unchanged. The buffered timing signal would be fed as input to the level shifter. The output of the level shifter would serve as a timing and control signal for the high-voltage switch, causing the switch to alternately be (1) opened, allowing the capacitive load to be charged from a high-voltage DC power supply; then (2) closed to discharge the capacitive load to ground. Hence, the output waveform would closely approximate a series of exponential charging and discharging curves (see Figure 2).

This work was done by Luther W. Beegle, Tuan A. Duong, Vu A. Duong, and Isik Kanik of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.