This project will assess the feasibility of using low power, high intrinsic amplification 2D material ion detectors for mass spectrometry to lower mass, power, and volume of mass spectrometers. Guardion’s proposed solution is to eliminate the need of high voltage electron multipliers utilizing patented 2D material-based ion detectors that provide intrinsic charge to current amplification values ranging between 1E6-1E9 A/C, and only require an operating bias of 0.1V. It further distinguishes between positive and negative ions, and works from atmospheric pressure through ultra high vacuum. Unlike conventional methods of detection used in mass spectrometry, our sensors will exploit a low-bias intrinsic quantum gain mechanism in nanomaterials to amplify the signal from trace amounts of ions. This eliminates the need for external amplification, eliminates high voltage requirements, and significantly reduces power consumption.
We will first develop test devices in an ultra high vacuum compatible assembly. We will then modify an existing mass filter to direct ions towards our detector assembly and compare against a commercial off the shelf residual gas analyzer. We will then modify a standalone single quadrupole mass spec to accommodate our device assembly to test higher mass ranges. We will then evaluate sensor response to mass range, sampling rate, charge state, and ion energy. Finally, we will generate a report assessing the sensor performance, benefits, and limitations with suggestions on what types of mass spec and missions would be benefitted for sensor adoption.
This innovation will directly impact NASA planetary, lunar, and terrestrial missions that rely on mass spectrometry. Successful development of this technology will eliminate the high voltage requirements, eliminate potting, and provide an amplification mechanism that works at various pressures. By lowering the SWaP of mass spectrometers and potentially reducing the requirements on pumping systems, NASA will be able to pursue more ambitious mission concepts, improve analytical capability, and instrument durability.
Mass spectrometry is a critical analytical tool in a diverse set of industries - from drug discovery, forensic toxicology, clinical research, and homeland security. These new sensors will enable the next generation of mass spectrometers to be more portable, efficient, and resilient, opening up new market opportunities terrestrially and new mission capabilities in space.