Virtual-slit focusing in a cycloidal mass spectrometer – A proof of concept

Rafael Bento Serpa, Elettra L. Piacentino, Kathleen L. Horvath, Tanouir Aloui, Yuriy Zhilichev, Charles B. Parker, Jeffrey T. Glass, Scott B. Tilden, Justin A. Keogh, Robert Kingston, Roger P. Sperline, M. Bonner Denton, Jason J. Amsden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This work demonstrates a novel approach to mass spectrometry using the “virtual-slit” created by the small, localized volume from which ions are generated by localized ionization techniques such as laser ionization of particles and surfaces, and spark ionization. That is, the volume in which the ions are generated creates a localized source of ions in much the same way as a slit that allows only ions from a specific cross sectional area to pass. As demonstrated in this work, the unique perfect focusing properties of a cycloidal mass analyzer can enable the localized ionization volume to function as a virtual-slit. In this manuscript, we provide a proof-of-concept (POC) demonstration of a virtual-slit cycloidal mass spectrometer (VS-CMS) consisting of a cycloidal mass analyzer, a laser ionization source, and an ion array detector. The laser is used to ionize either bulk or thin film samples of Cu, Ti, Ni, and Cr. Results indicate that the width of the peaks at the detector is the same as the laser spot size, validating the concept of virtual-slit focusing. Furthermore, the Ti and Cu ablated with each laser pulse is estimated at 60 and 140 fg, respectively, indicating that a very low detection limit is possible given the ability of the cycloidal mass analyzer to collect ions generated by laser ionization that have wide energy and angular dispersions. The VS-CMS concept has the potential to enable development of fieldable instruments for chemical, elemental, and isotopic analysis of organic and inorganic samples, that are relatively small compared to currently used laser ionization time-of-flight and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116706
JournalInternational Journal of Mass Spectrometry
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Array detector
  • Cycloid
  • Laser ionization
  • Mass analyzer
  • Sector
  • Single particle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Spectroscopy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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