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A carbon nano tube electron impact ionisation source for low-power, compact spacecraft mass spectrometers

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A novel ionisation source which uses commercially available Carbon Nano Tube devices is demonstrated as a replacement for a filament based ionisation source in an ion trap mass spectrometer. The carbon nanotube ion source electron emission was characterised and exhibited typical emission of 30 ± 1.7 µA with an applied voltage differential of 300 V between the carbon nanotube tips and the extraction grid. The ion source was tested for longevity and operated under a condition of continuous emission for a period of 44 hours; there was an observed reduction in emission current of 26.5% during operation. Spectra were generated by installing the ion source into a Finnigan Mat ITD700 ion trap mass spectrometer; the spectra recorded showed all of the characteristic m/z peaks from m/z 69 to m/z 219. Perfluorotributylamine spectra were collected and averaged contiguously for a period of 48 hours with no significant signal loss or peak mass allocation shift. The low power requirements and low mass of this novel ionisation source are considered be of great value to future space missions where mass spectrometric technology will be employed.

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