Photoelectron emission as an alternative electron impact ionization source for ion trap mass spectrometry

Gerardo Gamez, Liang Zhu, Thomas A. Schmitz, Renato Zenobi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Electron impact ionization has several known advantages; however, heated filament electron sources have pressure limitations and their power consumption can be significant for certain applications, such as in field-portable instruments. Herein, we evaluate a VUV krypton lamp as an alternative source for ionization inside the ion trap of a mass spectrometer. The observed fragmentation patterns are more characteristic of electron impact ionization than photoionization. In addition, mass spectra of analytes with ionization potentials higher than the lamp's photon energy (10.6 eV) can be easily obtained. A photoelectron impact ionization mechanism is suggested by the observed data allowed by the work function of the ion trap electrodes (4.5 eV), which is well within the lamp's photon energy. In this case, the photoelectrons emitted at the surface of the ion trap end-cap electrode are accelerated by the applied rf field to the ring electrode. This allows the photoelectrons to gain sufficient energy to ionize compounds with high ionization potentials to yield mass spectra characteristic of electron impact. In this manner, electron impact ionization can be used in ion trap mass spectrometers at low powers and without the limitations imposed by elevated pressures on heated filaments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6791-6795
Number of pages5
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008


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