Developing a Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer for Rapid Mass Spectral Imaging

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A recent study described how a new secondary ion mass spectrometer coupled with microscope mode detection allows for rapid mass spectral imaging over a larger surface area.

In a recent study from the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, a team of scientists from the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, and ion beam technology manufacturer Ionoptika, described the development of a new secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS) coupled with microscope mode detection. This SIMS is designed to allow for rapid, high-resolution mass spectral imaging over a larger surface area (1).

The research team developed the MS instrument by defocusing a C60+ primary ion (PI) beam source and was able to achieve uniform intensity across a 2.5 mm² area (1).

The team also integrated a position-sensitive spatial detector with the beam source. This coupling was important because it enabled researchers to simultaneously desorb ions across the expansive field of view, which was deemed challenging because of technical limitations (1).As a result, the research team oversaw an enhancement in throughput, as they were able to record mass spectral images over the 2.5 mm² area in a matter of seconds (1).

The system's spatial resolutioncan distinguish features at a scale better than 20 μm. Furthermore, the mass resolution achieved exceeds 500 at 500 u (atomic mass unit), offering precise insights into the composition of samples (1).


The ability to obtain MS images over a significant area with high resolution and accuracy is an important development. It creates opportunities for more efficient material characterization, pharmaceutical research, environmental analysis, and a host of other scientific and industrial domains (1).

As this study shows, the SIMS setup is designed to catalyze further advancements in MS and imaging techniques. Although it is a promising step toward democratizing high-throughput, high-resolution mass spectral imaging, further research is needed as the technology continues to develop.


(1) Green, F. M.; Castellani, M. E.; Jia, Y.; et al. Development of High Throughput Microscope Mode Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry Imaging. J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 2023, 34 (7), 1272–1282. DOI: 10.1021/jasms.2c00371