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A laser ablation-miniature mass spectrometer (LA-MMS) for the chemical and isotopic measurement of rocks and minerals is described. In the LA-MMS method, neutral atoms ablated by a pulsed laser are led into an electron impact ionization source, where they are ionized by a 70 eV electron beam. This results in a secondary ion pulse typically 10-100 μs wide, compared to the original 5-10 ns laser pulse duration. Ions of different masses are then spatially dispersed along the focal plane of the magnetic sector of the miniature mass spectrometer (MMS) and measured in parallel by a modified CCD array detector capable of detecting ions directly. Compared to conventional scanning techniques, simultaneous measurement of the ion pulse along the focal plane effectively offers a 100% duty cycle over a wide mass range. LA-MMS offers a more quantitative assessment of elemental composition than techniques that detect ions directly generated by the ablation process because the latter can be strongly influenced by matrix effects that vary with the structure and geometry of the surface, the wavelength of the laser beam, and the not well characterized ionization efficiencies of the elements in the process. The above problems attendant to the direct ion analysis has been minimized in the LA-MMS by analyzing the ablated neutral species after their post-ionization by electron impaction. These neutral species are much more abundant than the directly ablated ions in the ablated vapor plume and are, therefore, expected to be characteristic of the chemical composition of the solid. Also, the electron impact ionization of elements is well studied and their ionization cross sections are known and easy to find in databases. Currently, the LA-MMS limit of detection is 0.4 wt.%. Here we describe LA-MMS elemental composition measurements of various minerals including microcline, lepidolite, anorthoclase, and USGS BCR-2G samples. The measurements of high precision isotopic ratios including (41)K/(39)K (0.077 ± 0.004) and (29)Si/(28)Si (0.052 ± 0.006) in these minerals by LA-MMS are also described. The LA-MMS has been developed as a prototype instrument system for space applications for geochemical and geochronological measurements on the surface of extraterrestrial bodies. © 2011 American Institute of Physics


M P Sinha, E L Neidholdt, J Hurowitz, W Sturhahn, B Beard, M H Hecht. Laser ablation-miniature mass spectrometer for elemental and isotopic analysis of rocks. The Review of scientific instruments. 2011 Sep;82(9):094102

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PMID: 21974601

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