Tickle Voltages Jolt Excitement into Recent Mass Spectrometry Conference

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In a recent story featuring Scott Koenning, we learned that ticklishness is an international concept, after witnessing a ticklish garment he found in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Now we are now about to learn that ticklishness is also an interdisciplinary idea, and has even penetrated the intimidating world of hard science.

Maya Lipert, a Chemistry major heading to the University of Michigan Ann-Arbor for graduate school, gave special attention to one of the presentations at a recent conference in Philadelphia. Why? The subject matter was none other than tickle voltages, the most ticklish term in the awe-inspiring world of quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometry.

As it is about the size of a tennis ball, Lipert attempted to smash one of these ticklish mass spectrometers with her powerful forehand at one point on the weekend. It took a whole team of scientists to subdue the former tennis standout who holds a career 60-17 singles record at the Division III level.

Lipert offered these comments on the conference:

At the 57th annual ASMS conference on mass spectrometry and allied topics in Philadelphia, PA May 31st-June 4th, Laura Simpson and I had thepleasure of attending a talk entitled “Comparison of As-built and Simion model results for a Toroidal Ion Trap Mass Spectrometer” given by Joseph Oliphant from Torion Technologies Inc. The talk featured tickle voltages, which are defined as “an alternating current voltages applied to the endcap electrodes during an excitation period. The amplitude of the voltage is generally small so as to enable fragmentation of the ions by collisions with the helium damping gas rather than ejection.” Matrix Science

This voltage is a standard part of all quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometers, an instrument currently used in the Marzluff research laboratory in the chemistry department at Grinnell College. Oliphant’s research varied the tickle voltage to optimize mass resolution, whereas our experiments hold this voltage constant and vary the radiofrequency (RF) voltage.

Now, for all readers who have become excited and now wish to go out into the world and explore science, be warned: it’s best left to the professionals.

Where will ticklishness emerge next?

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