Spark ionization

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Spark ionization (also known as spark source ionization(deprecated)) is a method used to produce gas phase ions from a solid sample. The prepared solid sample is vaporized and partially ionized by an intermittent discharge or spark.[1] This technique is primarily used in the field of mass spectrometry. When incorporated with a mass spectrometer the complete instrument is referred to as a spark ionization mass spectrometer or as a spark source mass spectrometer (SSMS).[2]

Sample preparation[edit]

Typically samples are physically incorporated into two conductive electrodes (usually either carbon or silver) between which a high-voltage electric spark is produced, ionizing the material at the tips of the electrodes. If metals are being analyzed the sample may serve as an electrode.

Technical information[edit]

The spark source creates ions with a wide energy spread (2-3 kV), which necessitates a double focusing mass analyzer. Mass analyzers are typically Mattauch-Herzog geometry, which achieve velocity and directional focusing onto a plane with either photosensitive plates for ion detection or linear channeltron detector arrays.[3]


  1. ^ IUPAC gold book definition
  2. ^ H. E. Beske, A. Hurrle and K. P. Jochum (1981). "Part I. Principles of spark source mass spectrometry (SSMS)". Fresenius' Journal of Analytical Chemistry 309 (4): 258–261. doi:10.1007/BF00488596. 
  3. ^ Adams, F.; Vertes, A. (1990). "Inorganic mass spectrometry of solid samples". Fresenius' Journaly of Analytical Chemistry. Retrieved 23 February 2015.