Technology

Fast sample and chip exchange

The system contains an integrated vacuum system, controlled by pneumatic valves via the user-friendly graphical user interface. Such system allows for rapid chip exchange with an automated pump-down procedure. A new chip can be installed in a few minutes without stopping pumps or turning off the spectrometer. This allows the user to dedicate different chips for experiments in special electrolytes or different electrode materials, and switch between experiments in minutes.

If the system did not have an optimized, integrated vacuum system, the entire chamber would have to be vented every time a new sample or a new chip had to be exchanged. Not only is this a very time-consuming process, but it also dramatically compromises the vacuum quality in the MS chamber, increasing the baseline floor of the mass spectrum reading and, ultimately, compromising the high sensitivity of the instrument. Furthermore, venting requires the ionization filament of the mass spectrometer to be turned off, which is harmful and undesirable for multiple reasons. First, frequent power cycles of the filament shorten its lifetime. Second, degassing occurs each time the filament is turned on, deteriorating the vacuum level and wasting time. Third, the electron emission requires a few hours to stabilize each time the filament is powered up. Finally, pumping down a new chip via the main chamber would take too long to obtain proper evacuation of the chip.

Stability and control of these parameters are essential to enable reproducible and quantifiable EC-MS results. Our system avoids all this, ensuring fast and reliable operation and extended lifetime. It also avoids need for bake out, enabling rapid and reproducible chip and sample exchange without ever venting the chamber.

Exploded view of the interface block hosting the membrane microchip inlet system. The standard mounting geometry ensures perfect sealing between gastight surfaces with highest manufacturing tolerances. Fast and reproducible microchip replacement is ensured by the integrated vacuum system. Thanks to this, the mass spectrometer can stay on all the time and sensor performance is optimized.

Figure 7. Image of a chip mounted in the interface block. The chip exchange is effortless and quick.