The Mass Spectrometer

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The mass spectrometer is a device used to study isotopes of ions produced in a cathode ray tube. Isotopes of an element share the same chemical properties but have different masses and produce different values for their charge-to-mass ratio. An electron beam strikes vapor atoms that yield positive ions accelerated by a potential difference and deflected by a uniform magnetic field to hit a photographic plate. Mass spectrometry can also be used to identify molecules by analyzing the masses of its fragments.

Contributed by: Enrique Zeleny (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA


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The charge-to-mass ratio of an ion can be derived from Newton's second law and the Lorenz force, yielding

,

where is the charge, is the mass, is the potential difference, is the magnetic field intensity, and is the radius of gyration.



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