New approach to 3-D, high sensitivity, high mass resolution space plasma composition measurements

David J. McComas, Jane E. Nordholt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This paper describes a new type of 3-D space plasma composition analyzer. The design combines high sensitivity, high mass resolution measurements with somewhat lower mass resolution but even higher sensitivity measurements in a single compact and robust design. While the lower resolution plasma measurements are achieved using conventional straight-through time-of-flight mass spectrometry, the high mass resolution measurements are made by timing ions reflected in a linear electric field (LEF), where the restoring force that an ion experiences is proportional to the depth it travels into the LEF region. Consequently, the ion's equation of motion in that dimension is that of a simple harmonic oscillator and its travel time is simply proportional to the square root of the ion's mass/charge (m/q). While in an ideal LEF, the m/q resolution can be arbitrarily high, in a real device the resolution is limited by the field linearity which can be achieved. In this paper we describe how a nearly linear field can be produced and discuss how the design can be optimized for various different plasma regimes and spacecraft configurations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3095-3097
Number of pages3
JournalReview of Scientific Instruments
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation


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