Purdue University Graduate School
Purdue_University_Dissertation_XiChen_FinalVersion.pdf (10.2 MB)


Download (10.2 MB)
posted on 2022-04-26, 02:22 authored by Xi ChenXi Chen

    Drift tubes (DT) are prominent tools used in Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS) to separate ions in the gas phase due to their difference in mobility. While prominently used for small ions (< 10nm), their use for larger particles (up to 100nm) is limited and can only be attempted at atmospheric pressure due to diffusion. A system that specializes in high sensitivity larger particles (up to 1000nm) is the Differential Mobility Analyzer (DMA), but lacks in resolution (< 10 for particles 30-1000nm). The idea behind this work is to be able to design a new IMS system based on similar
principles to the DT but that allows high resolution and sensitivity for a large range of sizes if possible. The primary idea revolves around the principle of non-constant linear fields to try and control the width of the ion packet as it travels through the system. The first attempt was an Inverted Drift Tube (IDT) which lacked sufficient
sensitivity. This was followed by the development of the Varying Field Drift Tube (VFDT) which was the first of such systems to perform better than a regular DT, but only marginally. Finally, the last version of the system included a secondary pulse and labeled High Voltage Pulse - Varying Field Drift Tube (HVP-VFDT), which solved
some of the issues of the VFDT and was able to achieve resolving powers of 250, 3-5 times higher than regular DT.

   In the IDT system, a gas flow is used to drive the packet of ions through the drift region while a linearly increasing electric field which is in the opposite direction of the flow is used to slow down the ions and separate them. In this regime it is the largest ions that arrive at the detector first, hence the name Inverted Drift Tube.This technique would allow larger ions and particles to be detected. At the same time, the linear field can be shown to have diffusion constriction (auto-correction) properties, where the broad distributions may be narrowed in the axial direction. However, the gas flow is difficult to control well and the parabolic velocity profile of the gas flow in the tube is a unfavorable factor for the system. 

    To avoid the issue of the parabolic velocity but still take into account the VFDT takes the advantage of the diffusion auto-correction, the gas flow is suppressed and a linearly decreasing field is used to drive the ions. By solving the Nernst-Planck equation, we show that the VFDT has a spatial resolving power that is much higher than that of the regular DT. A DT was built and tested using a mixture of tetraalkylammonium salts. The transformation from the raw variable arrival time distribution to collision cross section or mobility diameter is derived and the linear relationship
makes it simple for calibration and transformation. A resolving power of over 90 is achieved experimentally although higher resolving powers were expected theory.
 It turns out that the difference between theory and experiments had to do with the fact that in the VFDT, the spatial and time resolving powers are different.This
is due to the low drift velocity at the end of the drift tube. To increase this velocity, a high voltage pulse is applied at a certain time depending on the ion/s of interest with a new system, HVP-VFDT. The system was tested numerically and experimentally where several parameters where tested resulting in a higher resolving powers when compared with DT and VFDT systems.The simulation results showed that the transmission efficiency and resolving power can be controlled by raising or lowering the field. Overall, the experimental setup tested reached resolving powers of 250 with moderate gate pulses. The HVP-VFDT system also shows that the distribution may be narrowed over the initial one, something impossible with a real drift tube and
opens a myriad of possibilities, including resolving powers of several thousands under low pressure and RF fields.
 The next step will be to couple the system to a Mass Spectrometer which is expected to be completed in the near future. To understand how a DT works with   RF fields and low pressure, a collaboration was done with David Clemmer’s lab and his 4 meter drift tube that can achieve resolutions of 150 in Helium at 4torr. Here, we tested a set of polymers and compared the results to those acquired in Nitrogen with a DMA. The shape and structure of the polymers in the gas phase was studied showing
self-similar assemblies that corresponds to a globule with an appendix sticking out.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Carlos Larriba-Andaluz

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Liang Pan

Additional Committee Member 2

Julia Laskin

Additional Committee Member 3

Andres Tovar

Usage metrics



    Ref. manager