Daniel Austin

Industrial Problem: Design and optimize performance of miniaturized ion-trap mass spectrometers for portable chemical analysis. Together let’s design for space missions!

See Dr. Austins full website here

Austin Lab Group

My group explores novel instrumentation and applications based on mass spectrometry.

There is significant drive to make mass spectrometers sufficiently small and portable that they can be carried to the sample, rather than bringing samples into the lab for analysis. We have pioneered the approach of making mass analyzers using lithographically patterned plates. We have made miniaturized radiofrequency quadrupole, toroidal, and linear ion traps using this approach, as well as an electrostatic ion beam trap. We are also developing charge detector arrays for mass analysis using patterned plates. The use of patterned plates rather than machined electrodes reduces cost while improving the precision and alignment of the electric field.

We also study electrospray charging of micron-scale particles. Using mobility experiments we have demonstrated that bacterial spores can survive electrospray charging and desolvation. These spores can subsequently survive impacts against a dense surface at surprisingly high impact speeds. We have also demonstrated that electrospray can be used to electrically charge a variety of mineral types, including quartz, olivine, and chondrite. Electrically charging mineral grains may enable accelerating these particles to high velocities for laboratory simulations of cosmic dust impacts.

My research team recently published an article on crash testing bacteria at 670 mph in the lab to see if spores could survive space travel. See the video below.