Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer Array (TOF Spectrarray)
Small devices that can rapidly and accurately analyze chemical and biological molecules are required by many industries. Homeland security and the medical community lead the list. Current instruments are either too large to be used as a first responder in the field, too slow in giving results to analyze large amounts of protein data, or too costly for widespread use.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has invented and patented a minimization of the TOF Mass spectrometer which allows for, among other things, the bundling of many mass analyzers into a single array working in a parallel fashion, this serves to greatly enhance the throughput of the instrument by multiplexing the data collection process. By far the greatest advantage of this arrangement of parallel processors is the significant reduction in the critical bottleneck of data collection time since as many as 107 measurements must be made to characterize a single patient. Moreover, space savings of a compact multichannel instrument allows for more efficient use of laboratory space, and significant production costs savings can be realized by more efficient use of costly components within a single instrument. These include the vacuum system, laser and optical system, vacuum compatible translation stages, and control electronics, all of which require only a single piece of hardware to support the array of mass spectrometers. The spectrometer array incorporates up to 16 TOF units, arranged in mirror image clusters of 8 units. This configuration allows for both the double-sided use of the single X-Z translation stage assembly as well as double-sided sample wafers, thereby reducing the silicon substrate cost by at least 50%. A single laser is directed to a beam splitter at the end(s) of the chamber, thereby allowing each analyzer to be activated simultaneously. The laser system is a diode pumped Ni-YAG laser capable of producing short laser pulses at high (kHz) repetition rates. Multiplexed time-of-flight data can then be collected using parallel digitizing processors.
Patent Status: U.S. patent(s) 6,580,070 issued.
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