UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Development of an ion trap mass spectrometer for elemental analysis Daigle, J.A. Bernard


Mass spectrometry is a widely used technique for the performance of elemental analysis: not only does it provides excellent limits of detection for a large number of elements, but it is also able to provide information about the isotopic distribution of the analyte. The radio-frequency quadrupole ion trap is a relatively new design of mass spectrometer, which offers the ability to confine charged particles for extended periods of time in a well defined volume by applying a radio-frequency oscillating voltage to an arrangement of three electrodes. A mass analysis of the trapped ions can be obtained by selectively extracting the ions from the cavity of the trap, where they can be detected by an electron multiplier. Despite its unique capabilities, to date the applications of the ion trap mass spectrometer have mostly been restricted to gas chromatography detection. Until recently, there have been very few attempts to use it for any other types of routine analysis. Our interest lies in the development of an instrument capable of performing a complete mass spectrometric elemental analysis of small volume liquid samples (a few (μL) at trace or ultra-trace concentration levels. The ability of the ion trap to accumulate ions in its cavity and to provide an entire mass spectrum of these ions in a single scan of the radio-frequency oscillating voltage applied between the electrodes, makes it a very interesting candidate for the ultra-trace analysis of small size samples. However, to perform an analysis on a sample with the ion trap the sample must first be vaporized; and if an elemental analysis is required, the sample will also have to be atomized. The graphite furnace atomizer used in atomic absorption spectroscopy offers a number of advantages which make it potentially useful for this purpose: it has a high transport efficiency of the analyte from liquid or solid state to the vapour phase, the ionization of the analyte in the furnace is very low (as required by the ion trap) and it handles small volume samples very well. A graphite furnace ion trap mass spectrometer was designed to fulfil the need of having instrumentation capable of multielemental mass spectrometric analysis of small volume samples containing traces of the analytes of interest. This document contains a description of the principles of operation of the ion trap as well as a detailed description of the instrument actually built. Data are presented in order to assess the capabilities of the instrument, as well as some of the problems encountered with it. The results obtained with the graphite furnace ion trap mass spectrometer allow us to conclude that the proposed design is not appropriate for the performance of elemental analysis, but is appropriate for mass spectrometric study of low boiling point compounds which can interfere with atomic absorption analysis: it is calculated that these compounds could be analysed at the ppm level. Promising results obtained with a set up in which the analyte is vaporized directly into the cavity of the ion trap through laser ablation are also presented. These limited results show the potential of this methodology for direct elemental analysis of solid samples.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.