Ion Manipulation in Open Air Using 3D-Printed Electrodes

  • Kiran Iyer
  • Brett M. Marsh
  • Grace O. Capek
  • Robert L. Schrader
  • Shane TichyEmail author
  • R. Graham CooksEmail author
Research Article


Ambient ionization techniques provide a way to sample materials via creation of ions in the air. However, transferring and focusing of these ions is typically done in the reduced pressure environment of the mass spectrometer. Spray-based ambient ionization sources require relatively large distances between the source and mass spectrometer inlet for effective desolvation, resulting in a small fraction of the ions being collected. To increase the efficiency of ion transfer from atmosphere to vacuum, 3D-printed focusing devices made of conductive carbon nanotube doped polymers have been designed and evaluated for ion focusing in air. Three main classes of electrodes are considered: (i) conic section electrodes (conical, ellipsoidal, and cylindrical), (ii) simple conductive and non-conductive apertures, and (iii) electrodes with complex geometries (straight, chicane, and curved). Simulations of ion trajectories performed using the statistical diffusion simulation (SDS) model in SIMION showed a measure of agreement with experiment. Cross-sectional images of ion beams were captured using an ion detecting charge-coupled device (IonCCD). After optimization, the best arrangements of electrodes were coupled to an Agilent Ultivo triple quadrupole to record mass spectra. Observations suggest that electrode geometry strongly influences ion trajectories in air. Non-conductive electrodes also assisted in focusing, due to charge buildup from ion deposition. We also observed minimal spreading of the ion packet after exiting the focusing electrodes indicating that atmospheric collisions do not reduce collimation of the beam. The study suggests that high pressures need not be viewed as a hindrance to ion transport, but as a potentially useful force.


Ambient ionization Additive manufacturing Ion focusing Triple quadrupole Ion transmission 



This work was supported by Agilent Technologies Inc. through gift #4212. We thank Pei Su and Julia Laskin for assistance with the IonCCD measurements.

Supplementary material

13361_2019_2307_MOESM1_ESM.docx (645 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 645 kb)


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Copyright information

© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Agilent TechnologiesSanta ClaraUSA

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