The Big Future for Compact Mass Spec Devices

April 20, 2016 // By EDN Europe
Bryan Reid, Sales Manager, Luso Electronics
A little-understood science is playing a huge role in system miniaturisation. Bryan Reid from Luso Electronics explains why building smaller high-voltage systems is critical to delivering future generations of mass spectrometry equipment.

The market for mass spectrometry equipment is reaching the mid-point of a growth spurt that will see it hit $5.9 billion by 2018 according to analyst MarketsandMarkets. Luso Electronics  is aware that the increasing demands are coming from industries such as pharmaceuticals, drug research, healthcare, clinical diagnostics, food and beverage testing, biotechnology, industrial chemistry, and environmental testing. As laboratories seek to pack more capabilities into their workspaces and analyse chemical or biological samples on the spot to get results in real-time, the equipment also needs to become more affordable, faster, more sensitive, and offer increased resolution as well as extra features in a smaller footprint.

Miniaturisation of key subsystems and components is vital if successive generations of high-value equipment such as mass spectrometers are to become easier to install, easier to use and more affordable. Today’s smallest mass spectrometer is currently the MMS1000 by US OEM 1st Detect that measures just 19cm wide and 23cm deep, raises the prospect of installing a mass spectrometer in every local medical centre to enable instantaneous blood sample analysis. The engineering effort to miniaturise the high-voltage modules of the MMS1000 has played an important role in bringing this convenient and space-efficient instrument to the marketplace.

High-voltage electronic design is a specialised field, and achieving significant miniaturisation is an extreme challenge given the fundamental reliance on creepage and clearance keep sensitive circuitry, operators and any other nearby human beings safe. HVM Technology has perfected critical manufacturing processes that enable miniaturised high-voltage power modules and, in fact, contributed to helping 1st Detect set that market benchmark with its MMS1000. HVM’s modules are also key to other advances in industrial equipment, such as miniature X-ray machines for use in doctors’ surgeries, portable radiation counters, and electrostatic chucks for the wafer-fab industry that are smaller, easier to use and more responsive.

Some of the most important processes HVM Technology has developed include vacuum potting with epoxies of high surface resistivity. These rigid, high-resistivity materials allow creepage and clearance distances to be significantly reduced, compared to un-encapsulated assemblies. Unfortunately they do not allow rework, so extra care has to be taken to identify any latent defects prior to its application. Ultra-compact high-voltage design also calls for highly developed cleaning processes capable of purging even the minutest conductive particles such as soldering residues before encapsulation takes place.

HVM Technology has at least one further ace in the hand, and that is its own in-house transformer design and manufacturing capability. The transformer is the single most critical component to meet size and performance requirements, and delivers the best results when tailored to meet the exact needs of the target application. The ability to build custom transformers to high quality standards delivers a major contribution towards delivering stand-out products that are smaller, better performing, and deliver the highest possible customer satisfaction.

One reason power-module design has a significant effect on overall system size is that instruments such as mass spectrometers require multiple internal high-voltage rails. Hence even relatively small size advantages gained in a single power module accumulate across the total number of such rails required.