Collaborative Research: Development of a high-efficiency mass spectrometer: transitioning a high-efficiency ion source to a modern mass spectrometer

Project: Research project

Project Details


This EAR Instrumentation and Facilities Program award (a collaborative between Penn State and Carnegie Institution of Washington) will support the installation and testing of a newly developed, high-ionization-efficiency cavity ionization source on a modern multi-collector mass spectrometer, the Thermo-Fisher Triton. The ion source development was supported previously by the EAR/IF Program (EAR-1758571). If successful, the source augmented mass spectrometer promised significantly enhanced analytical precision for isotope ratio analysis with the potential for future transformative scientific advances in our understanding of the early evolution of Earth and planetary reservoirs (e.g., crust, mantle and core differentiation). The project involves an early career researcher and will result in construction and operation of a fundamentally new type of mass spectrometer, which if successful, has potential for commercialization and broader community use.

The ultimate precision of mass spectrometry-based isotopic analyses is limited, in large part, by detector counting statistics. The cavity ion source may present a major step forward in the ability to produce large ion beams from geologic samples and may make it able to achieve isotope-ratio precisions currently unattainable with modern thermal ionization mass spectrometers (TIMS). Support will provide for installation of the developed ion source onto an existing Thermo-Fisher Triton TIMS and subsequent analytical testing. The investigators have preliminary demonstrations that the source produces: 1) large, stable ion beams for long periods of time, and 2) higher ionization efficiency than traditional flat-filament thermal ionization sources for select elements. The source-enhanced instrument has significant potential to advance research on fundamental questions in the geosciences, from radiometric dating to tracing first-order chemical processes that formed and modify various reservoirs on Earth and other planets, by providing large increases in the analytical precision achievable for targeted radiogenic isotope ratio determinations (e.g., Sm/Nd system for understanding the earliest history of Earth and the Solar System), that in allows for analysis of smaller rare samples than currently possible.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date1/1/171/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $46,019.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.