The Effect of the Earth’s and Stray Magnetic Fields on Mobile Mass Spectrometer Systems


Bell, R. J., Davey, N. G., Martinsen, M., Short, R. T., Gill, C. G., & Krogh, E. T. (2015). The effect of the earth’s and stray magnetic fields on mobile mass spectrometer systems. Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, 26(2), 201-211.


Development of small, field-portable mass spectrometers has enabled a rapid growth of in-field measurements on mobile platforms. In such in-field measurements, unexpected signal variability has been observed by the authors in portable ion traps with internal electron ionization. The orientation of magnetic fields (such as the Earth’s) relative to the ionization electron beam trajectory can significantly alter the electron flux into a quadrupole ion trap, resulting in significant changes in the instrumental sensitivity. Instrument simulations and experiments were performed relative to the earth’s magnetic field to assess the importance of (1) nonpoint-source electron sources, (2) vertical versus horizontal electron beam orientation, and (3) secondary magnetic fields created by the instrument itself. Electron lens focus effects were explored by additional simulations, and were paralleled by experiments performed with a mass spectrometer mounted on a rotating platform. Additionally, magnetically permeable metals were used to shield (1) the entire instrument from the Earth’s magnetic field, and (2) the electron beam from both the Earth’s and instrument’s magnetic fields. Both simulation and experimental results suggest the predominant influence on directionally dependent signal variability is the result of the summation of two magnetic vectors. As such, the most effective method for reducing this effect is the shielding of the electron beam from both magnetic vectors, thus improving electron beam alignment and removing any directional dependency. The improved ionizing electron beam alignment also allows for significant improvements in overall instrument sensitivity.

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