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Anal Chem. 2009 Aug 1;81(15):6489-95. doi: 10.1021/ac900892u.

Ultrafast differential ion mobility spectrometry at extreme electric fields in multichannel microchips.

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Biological Sciences Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Richland, Washington 99352, USA.


The maximum electric field intensity (E) in field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS) analyses was doubled to E > 60 kV/cm. In earlier devices with >0.5 mm gaps, such strong fields cause electrical breakdown for nearly all gases at ambient pressure. As the Paschen curves are sublinear, thinner gaps permit higher E: here, we established 61 kV/cm in N(2) using microchips with 35 microm gaps. As FAIMS efficiency is exceptionally sensitive to E, such values can in theory accelerate analyses at equal resolution by over an order of magnitude. Here we demonstrate FAIMS filtering in approximately 20 micros or approximately 1% of the previously needed time, with a resolving power of about half that for "macroscopic" units but sufficing for many applications. Microscopic gaps enable concurrent ion processing in multiple (here, 47) channels, which greatly relaxes the charge capacity constraints of planar FAIMS designs. These chips were integrated with a beta-radiation ion source and charge detector. The separation performance is in line with first-principles modeling that accounts for high-field and anisotropic ion diffusion. By extending FAIMS operation into the previously inaccessible field range, the present instrument advances the capabilities for research into ion transport and expands options for separation of hard-to-resolve species.

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