Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Time-of-flight mass spectrometry with latching Nb meander detectors



Brian Estey, James A. Beall, Gene C. Hilton, Kent D. Irwin, Daniel R. Schmidt, Joel N. Ullom, Robert E. Schwall


Mass Spectrometry is widely used for protein characterization, structural virology, drug discovery, and clinical chemistry. However the detection efficiency of existing detectors for mass spectrometry degrades rapidly as mass is increased and is only ~10-5 at 106 Da. Superconducting detectors provide detection efficiency which is essentially mass independent and previous efforts have explored the use of superconducting tunnel junctions (STJ’s) and normal-insulator-superconductor (NIS) microcalorimeters as detectors. Both STJ and NIS detectors, however have active areas limited to ~1 mm2, well below the ~1 cm2 required for a viable system. Micro-stripline meander detectors have the potential to provide the necessary area and speed. We have fabricated simple prototype detectors, mounted them on a cryocooler interfaced to a commercial mass spectrometer, and obtained spectra of representative biological molecules. We present quantum efficiency comparisons to conventional Microchannel Plate detectors and outline the steps remaining to develop a commercially viable system.
IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity


Mass spectrometry, niobium meander


Estey, B. , Beall, J. , Hilton, G. , Irwin, K. , Schmidt, D. , Ullom, J. and Schwall, R. (2009), Time-of-flight mass spectrometry with latching Nb meander detectors, IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, [online], (Accessed April 23, 2024)
Created June 1, 2009, Updated February 17, 2017