Characterization of a miniature, ultra-high-field, ion mobility spectrometer

Research paper by Ashley Wilks, Matthew Hart, Andrew Koehl, John Somerville, Billy Boyle, David Ruiz-Alonso

Indexed on: 30 Aug '12Published on: 30 Aug '12Published in: International Journal for Ion Mobility Spectrometry


By combining a multiple micron-gap ion separator with a novel high-frequency separation waveform drive topology, it has been possible to considerably extend the separation field limits employed in Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry (FAIMS)/Differential Mobility Spectrometry (DMS); giving rise to an Ultra-High-Field operational domain. A miniature spectrometer, based around the multi-micron-gap ion separator and ultra-high-field drivers, has been developed to meet the continuing industrial need for sensitive (sub-ppm), broadband and fast (second timescale) response volatile chemical detection. The packaged miniature spectrometer measures 12 × 12 × 15 cm, weighs 1.2 kg and is fully standalone; consisting of the core multi-micron gap ion separator assembly and RF/DC electronic drivers integrated with pneumatic handling/sample conditioning elements, together with ancillary temperature, flow and humidity sensing for stable closed loop operation (under local microprocessor control). The combination of multiple micron-gap ion separators with the novel high-frequency separation waveform drive topology enables ion separations to be performed over scanning electric field ranges of 0 to >75 kV·cm−1 (0 to >∼320 Td at 101 kPa), offering a potential solution to trace and ultra-trace chemical detection/monitoring problems, that conventional IMS and DMS/FAIMS may otherwise find challenging. In this ultra-high field operational regime effective ion temperatures may be “swept” from ambient to >1000 K because critically, the effective ion temperature scales to at least the square of the applied field. With this field induced ion heating a controlled manipulation (or switching) of the ion chemistry within the separation channel (the ion drift region) may be invoked. For example, ion fragmentation via thermal dissociation can be induced. Chemical separation and identification is thus derived from the unique kinetic and thermodynamic behavior of ions assessed over a very broad effective temperature range. In addition to describing the novel miniature spectrometer, this paper addresses key aspects of ultra-high-field operation, which render it distinct from traditional ion mobility technologies and principles. In particular, this paper essays a model of ultra-high-field operation and highlights model deviations, whilst providing clear theoretical explanation backed up with experimental evidence.