An ionization source designed to efficiently utilize sub-milligram quantities of electrically non-conducting compounds (i.e. oxides) for prolonged periods of mass spectrometric analysis is described. The source is coupled to a quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer in this report, but could readily be modified for alternative types of mass spectrometers. The coaxial-design glow discharge ion source is unique in that it incorporates a focusing lens behind the discharge surface to steer ions towards the ion sampling plate and thereby improve sensitivity. Non-conducting oxide samples are infused in indium and set in one end of an electrically conductive rod, to which the voltage is applied. Transmission efficiency is sufficient to allow the measurement of isotopes of tungsten from a tungsten rod using glow discharge pulse widths as narrow as 2 µs, which is on the order of single-atom layer sputtering. The sputtering and ionization processes occurring in the discharge produces mainly atomic metal ions, regardless of the chemical form of the metals in the samples. This latter aspect is particularly useful for intended applications involving actinide samples, and allows a minimal amount of sample handling. In a second application, a metal capillary is used in place of the rod to create an atmospheric sampling glow discharge. In this mode, the ion-focusing lens was also found to enhance ion signals arising from volatile vapors entering the discharge from the capillary.
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