Radio frequency (RF) ion traps based on the quadrupole device developed by Paul and Steinwedel utilize a dynamic electric field to spatially confine the trajectory of charged particles and may be employed as mass spectrometers by selectively ejecting trapped molecules based on the mass to charge ratio. Because of the inherent sensitivity and specificity of this process, ion trap mass spectrometers have become a popular scientific instrument. In the past two decades there has been a push to develop portable ion trap mass spectrometers for in situ mass analysis by geometrically scaling traps to smaller sizes. This decreases the power and vacuum requirements which allows field portable instruments to use smaller/less powerful vacuum pumps and batteries. This dissertation presents the process of miniaturizing the planar linear ion trap (PLIT) to a microscale radius in order to investigate the scaling limits of mass spectrometers. The ultimate end goal is the integration of a PLIT into a portable mass spectrometry system. The PLIT consists of two flat, non-conducting plates, on which fine metal electrodes are patterned using standard microfabrication processes, including photolithography. An RF field is distributed across the electrodes to create a quadrupole electromagnetic potential which traps ions based on their mass to charge ratio. While simple in concept, the PLIT has been developed over a ten-year period including an investigation of a variety of substrate materials and design geometries. This dissertation briefly reviews the optimal fabrication flow and why the stated parameters have advantages over other possible combinations in a coplanar ion trap. Since ion trap miniaturization reduces the trapping volume (which also worsens the SNR and resolution of a mass spectrum), a novel RF phase tracking circuit was developed to exploit a phase locked condition during double resonance ejection. This was implemented on the PLIT to increase SNR before constructing the µPLIT. Better than unit resolutions (0.5 Da, FWHM) and SNR improvements were observed.Lastly, the successful miniaturization of the PLIT to a microscale radius is presented. This was done by redesigning the electrodes on the PLIT surface to have an equivalent trap radius (ro) of 800 μm. The μPLIT successfully confined then resonantly ejected ions with resolutions of approximately 2-3 Da. The performance of the μPLIT was also tested over a range of pressures from 2.5-42×10-3 Torr and retained resolutions between 2.3-2.7 Da. Ultimately, the μPLIT was shown to retain resolutions viable for portable mass spectrometry at pressures in the tens of millitorr while consuming a factor of 3.38 less power than the unscaled PLIT.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





planar linear ion trap, mass spectrometry, microscale ion trap, ion trap miniaturization