AIP Digital Archive
A traveling electric potential hill has been used to generate an ion beam with an energy distribution that is mass dependent from a monoenergetic ion beam of mixed masses. This effect can be utilized as a novel method for mass separation applied to identification or enrichment of ions (e.g., of elements, isotopes, or molecules). This theory for mass-selective acceleration is presented here and is shown to be confirmed by experiment and by a time-dependent particle-in-cell computer simulation. Results show that monoenergetic ions with the particular mass of choice are accelerated by controlling the hill potential and the hill velocity. The hill velocity is typically 20%–30% faster than the ions to be accelerated. The ability of the hill to pickup a particular mass uses the fact that small kinetic energy differences in the lab frame appear much larger in the moving hill frame. Ions will gain energy from the approaching hill if their relative energy in the moving hill frame is less than the peak potential of the hill. The final energy of these accelerated ions can be several times the source energy, which facilitates energy filtering for mass purification or identification. If the hill potential is chosen to accelerate multiple masses, the heaviest mass will have the greatest final energy. Hence, choosing the appropriate hill potential and collector retarding voltage will isolate ions with the lightest, heaviest, or intermediate mass. In the experimental device, called a Solitron, purified 20Ne and 22Ne are extracted from a ribbon beam of neon that is originally composed of 20Ne:22Ne in the natural ratio of 91:9. The isotopic content of the processed beam is determined by measuring the energy distribution of the detected current. These results agree with the theory. In addition to mass selectivity, our theory can also be applied to the filtration of an ion beam according to charge state or energy. Because of this variety of properties, the Solitron is envisioned to have broad applications. The primary application is for the enrichment of stable isotopes for medical and industrial tracers. Other applications include mass analysis of unknown gases (atomic and molecular) and metals, extracting single charge states from a multiply charged beam, accelerating the high energy tail in a beam or plasma with a velocity distribution, and beam bunching.
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