Mass spectrometry research has been undertaken at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics since the pioneering work of Professor Harry Leck in the 1960s. Prof Leck was responsible for much early development in vacuum science and technology in the UK. He was an author of the classic text book Pressure Measurement in Vacuum Systems as well as contributor to Dawson’s Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry and Its Applications (Chapter 6).
Since 1995 the group has been led by Prof Steve Taylor. The focus of the group’s research has turned towards performance improvement and miniaturisation of quadrupole mass spectrometers using micro-engineering MEMS techniques. Performance improvement of linear quadrupoles has been achieved through extensive high accuracy computer simulations. This work has led to several patents in quadrupole mass spectrometer technology and the foundation of a spin-out company Q-Technologies Ltd in 2002 with the aim to commercialise miniature quadrupole analysers. Application areas for this work are in portable mass spectrometry for online process monitoring and gas analysis, medical and veterinary diagnosis (via patient breath analysis).
Since 2007 our research has been focused on environmental and low carbon applications. Our portable membrane inlet mass spectrometry (MIMS) system was ruggedised then field tested for detection of crude oil in the North Sea. This technology is currently being commercialised in collaboration with one of the world’s leading manufacturers of oil-in-water analysers. We have also expanded our research to include linear ion trap (LIT) technology. A patent is pending for fabrication of hyperbolic LITs using the rapid manufacture digital light processing (DLP) technique. The high mass range possible with ion trap technology (2000 Da) opens other research areas, such as explosives and drug detection for security applications, and peptide mass fingerprinting for biosensing applications.