Simulating a time-of-flight mass spectrometer: A labview exercise

Michael T. Marty, Douglas J. Beussman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


An in-depth understanding of all parameters that affect an instrumental analysis method, allowing students to explore how these instruments work so that they are not just a "black box", is key to being able to optimize the technique and obtain the best possible results. It is, however, impractical to provide such in depth coverage of every technique and instrument in the classroom, and even more so in the laboratory. Exploring various instrumental parameters can be time consuming in the lab assuming that hands-on access is even available. One alternative to exploring different instrumental situations in the lab is to use computer simulations to model instrument performance under different conditions. Here, we present a simulation of a time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer using the LabVIEW software platform. LabVIEW is routinely used for instrument interfacing and control and can be used to create simulations of a wide variety of chemical instruments. Because of their relatively high cost, mass spectrometers may not be readily available at all institutions, which makes a computer simulation an attractive alternative. Because TOF mass spectrometers, at least basic instruments, are relatively easy to understand, we chose to simulate a TOF in this exercise. This approach could be used to simulate other types of chemical instrumentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-243
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 12 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Computer Based Learning
  • Instrumental Methods
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Upper-Division Undergraduate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Education


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