Ultra-sensitive high-precision spectroscopy of a fast molecular ion beam

Andrew A. Mills, Brian M. Siller, Michael W. Porambo, Manori Perera, Holger Kreckel, Benjamin J. McCall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Direct spectroscopy of a fast molecular ion beam offers many advantages over competing techniques, including the generality of the approach to any molecular ion, the complete elimination of spectral confusion due to neutral molecules, and the mass identification of individual spectral lines. The major challenge is the intrinsic weakness of absorption or dispersion signals resulting from the relatively low number density of ions in the beam. Direct spectroscopy of an ion beam was pioneered by Saykally and co-workers in the late 1980s, but has not been attempted since that time. Here, we present the design and construction of an ion beam spectrometer with several improvements over the Saykally design. The ion beam and its characterization have been improved by adopting recent advances in electrostatic optics, along with a time-of-flight mass spectrometer that can be used simultaneously with optical spectroscopy. As a proof of concept, a noise-immune cavity-enhanced optical heterodyne molecular spectroscopy (NICE-OHMS) setup with a noise equivalent absorption of ∼2 × 10 -11cm -1Hz -12 has been used to observe several transitions of the Meinel 1-0 band of N 2 + with linewidths of ∼120MHz. An optical frequency comb has been used for absolute frequency calibration of transition frequencies to within 8MHz. This work represents the first direct spectroscopy of an electronic transition in an ion beam, and also represents a major step toward the development of routine infrared spectroscopy of rotationally cooled molecular ions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number224201
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number22
StatePublished - Dec 14 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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